Bird Rocks at the south end of Tillamook Head. In the distance at the right is Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach.

Beautiful vistas at Tillamook Head

Tillamook Head is in the northwest corner of Oregon. It is beautiful and very interesting. Tillamook Head is to the south of the Columbia River along the coastline. Tillamook Head is the furthest north mountainous area in Oregon on the coastline. Everything north of Tillamook Head all the way to the Columbia River is a low-lying beach.

Tami at Tillamook Head at very low tide.
Tami at Indian Beach at very low tide.

Tillamook Head

Geologists call this (mountain, hill, rocky cliff) a head or a headland, which means a large prominence of rocky sheer cliffs that drops vertically to the water. Another name for a headland is a cape. Cape Disappointment is located directly north of the Columbia River and is very similar.

Cape Disappointment Light House Waves Crashing Washington Coast
Cape Disappointment Light House Waves Crashing Washington Coast

It appears to me that the two words (head and cape) are used interchangeably. Cape Disappointment and Tillamook Head are two headlands divided by the Columbia River. The common characteristic is that both of them are sheer cliffs that drop directly into the water. Here is a link to the story describing the first time we visited Cape Disappointment. Stormy on the Oregon Coast

Tillamook Rock

The “island” Tillamook Rock to the west of Tillamook Head is the home to the Tillamook lighthouse. The water between Tillamook Lighthouse and Tillamook Head is shallow. Ships that ventured between Tillamook Rock and the coastline risked running aground and breaking apart on the rocks. Someday, when we return I would like to write a blog post about the Tillamook Lighthouse. It seems very interesting but for now, I am going to try to stay on the subject.

Tillamook Lighthouse.
Tillamook Lighthouse.

Ecola State Park

Oregon used the name Ecola as part of the name of the state park. The area including Indian Beach and Ecola Point is inside Ecola State Park. Ecola Point is a smaller outcropping just to the south of Indian Beach. All these places are at the southern end of Tillamook Head.

Ecola Point at the south end of Tillamook Head.
Ecola Point at the south end of Tillamook Head. This area is deceptively large. There are people in this picture on the beach, but you almost can’t see them due to the overall size of the beach.

Indian Beach

The day-use area is called Ecola State Park, and inside the state park is Indian Beach. It is the first beach south of the town of Seaside. The beach area parking lot is also the trailhead for the hike up Tillamook Head to view the lighthouse. The first town south of Tillamook Head is Cannon Beach.

Pacific Ocean near Cannon Beach Oregon
Pacific Ocean near Cannon Beach Oregon. Haystack rock is to the left of the center and covered by fog. (picture 2019)

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach is famous for Haystack Rock. The picture at the top of this post includes Haystack Rock. Haystack Rock is in the upper right corner of the picture. This is a basalt rock and in fact, was part of the same lava cooling as Tillamook Head. Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach is one of many basalt monoliths (a monolith is a really big rock) dotting the Oregon coastline. Geology majors are probably pained at my simple description of basalt. Sorry. Basalt rock is formed at the surface of a volcano and cools quickly crystallizes when it cools.

Rocks at Ecola Point include a natural bridge in the distance. All the specks in the sky are birds.
Rocks at Ecola Point include a natural bridge in the distance. All the specks in the sky are birds. These rocks make good subjects for pictures. I don’t know why Ecola was chosen or how to pronounce Ecola. I am pretty sure it is not pronounced E-cola.
Driftwood at Tillamook Head
Driftwood at Tillamook Head

North of Tillamook Head

To the north of Tillamook Head, just to the south of the Columbia River is Fort Stevens. Everything north of Tillamook Head all the way to the Columbia River is either silt from the Columbia River or sand bar associated with the river outflow of the Columbia River. Further to the north, across the Columbia River is Cape Disappointment. Like Tillamook Head and unlike Fort Stevens, Cape Disappointment is another basalt-formed headland.

Sunset at Fort Stevens
Sunset at Fort Stevens

The path of the Columbia River deposited sand and silt at its confluence with the ocean and the general prevailing ocean current carried most of the deposits to the south. The Columbia River, like the Mississippi or Nile Rivers, carries tons of soil downstream. The reason the Columbia River doesn’t create a delta like the Mississippi or Nile Rivers is because of the ocean’s southbound current. The Columbia River also deposits tons of soil upstream, as the river slows which creates islands in the river channel.

Cape Disappointment

Cape Disappointment also creates a delta to the west of soil transported by the Columbia River. Whereas Tillamook Head creates a place for sand to deposit north of Tillamook Point, Cape Disappointment creates a fill area to the west This is where sand from the Columbia River deposits to the west of Cape Disappointment. This area created a narrow river channel where Fort Stevens was built to control access to the Columbia River.

Cape Disappointment Light House Waves Crashing Washington Coast
Cape Disappointment Light House Waves Crashing Washington Coast

Our visit(s) to Tillamook Head

Our first visit to Tillamook Head and Fort Stevens was in the summer of 2018. That year we didn’t stay on the Oregon Coast but rather along the Oregon River at Scappoose Bay. In 2019 we stayed at Fort Stevens and made explored the coast down both north and south to Cannon Beach. After that, we drove the entire coastline of Oregon. This year we came from Olympic National Park and drove (as much as you can drive given all the islands) southbound along the coastline in Washington. Here are some links to these stories from previous years.

Scappoose Bay Oregon

Southbound on the Oregon Coast

Stormy on the Oregon Coast

Other Links

Ecola State Park

Cape Disappointment

3 thoughts on “Beautiful vistas at Tillamook Head”

  1. Capes are supposed to be bigger than headlands. But that doesn’t always work out that way. Cape Horn is an island at the southern tip of South America and is huge. Other areas are really small compared to such a huge place.

  2. An acquaintance of mine is moving from Orange County CA to the coastline near Tillamook, presumably the same area these shots were taken. Her comment was memorable: Compared to the Laguna Niguel and Dana Point area, which is dramatic in its own way, the Oregon coastline “is more rugged, natural and has challenging weather – it’s more authentic”. Your pictures clearly show that. There are not luxury homes owning the views (per se), with shopping close by; it’s more isolated there. And certainly the homes are less expensive. Could I live there though? Not sure, however gorgeous it is to look at.

  3. You’ve got some fabulous photos in this post – the lead photo, the waves crashing near the lighthouse, and the sunset ones are all frame-worthy. Just a gorgeous area, and it looks like you had terrific weather during your visit – which is not a given by any stretch of the imagination!

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