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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.