The Octopus Tree is a Sitka Spruce. No one can tell it's age without counting the rings.
Some theorize it could have been young at the time of the birth of Christ. I wish this picture looked better but I'm glad we have it because it helps me remember our day there.
The tree is several hundred feet south of the parking lot. It's a fun place to see as it contains mysterious lore and legend.
The Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge is hope to more than 100,000 nesting common murre. It was the first National Wildlife Refuge west of the Mississippi. The park is located about 1/2 mile of shore it totals 15 acres and is composed of 3 large rock islands and 6 smaller ones. The species found on the rocks include Common Murre, Leach's Storm-petrel, Brandt's Cormorant and Pigeon Guillemot as well as Stellar Sea Lions.
The refuge was established thanks to the efforts of conservationists William L. Finley and Herman Bohlman. They witnessed and photographed in the early 1900’s hunters killing Sea Lions and sport shooting thousands of birds on the island. In 1903 the pair brought the photos and their findings to then President Theodore Rosevelt and on October 14 1907 The Wildlife Refuge was created.
The Refuge is closed to public access and even the surrounding waters are protected. The best way to appreciate the refuge today is to take a look from Cape Meares. A good pair of Binoculars would be good to get better views and hope for good weather.
The Lighthouse at Cape Meares is the shortest lighthouse in all of Oregon. It sits atop a 217 foot (66 m) tall cliff so it does not need to be tall.
It was built in 1890 for a cost of 2,900$ using bricks that were made at the same location. The Lighthouse was decommissioned in 1963 and serves now as more of a park than an actual working lighthouse.
The Lighthouse keepers lead a tour to see the lens and source of its light. They are very knowledgeable and kind. The Lighthouse used an oil lamp until it switched over to an oil vapor lamp until 1934. These two types of light sources seem very outdated today as they were not much more than a giant camping lantern with a lens.
Unfortunately, in January of 2010 several thugs visited the Cape Meares Lighthouse and shot out most of the windows as well as doing significant damage to the landscaping around the lighthouse. The First Order Fresnel Lens was severely damaged, but significant portions were able to be saved. As of October of 2011, the exterior windows have been able to be repaired and it is now again possible to see parts of the lens through the windows from the viewpoint outside the lighthouse. However, due to the severe amount of glass still inside the upper floor of the lighthouse, plus the fact that the lens is still in very fragile condition and can not be repaired due to a lack of funds, visitors have not been able to visit the upper level of the lighthouse since the vandalism of 2010. There is hope that at some point in the future the lens will be stabilized enough so that visitors are at least able to return to visiting the upper floor of the lighthouse and get a look at what remains of the lens. However, for the past year this has not been possible - visitors have been limited to the lower floor of the light house and the gift shop since 2010.
Due to the severity of the damage, it was determined that people walking up and down the staircase would cause vibrations that would cuase damage to the precision of the remains of the lens, and so for now the upper part of the lighthouse has been closed to the public.
The windows have been temporarily patched, and to date almost $25,000 towards the repair of the lighthouse, but a complete repair is thought to cost about $500,000. The First Order Fresnel Lens is going to be difficult, if not impossible, to completely repair. The lens was made in Paris in 1888 and is simply not available today.
The Cape Meares Lighthouse is Oregon's shortest light house, as the height of the rock was considered mostly high enough - they need only to add slightly to the height of the existing cliff to get the lens above the fog line. With the First Order Fresnel Lens, the light could reach over 20 miles out to sea. It was built in 1890, and additions over time included a work room and garage. Families were housed here to tend the lighthouse, as the mechanism to turn the light was clockwork and needed to be wound every 2 1/2 hours, plus the glass needed to be washed every day. The lighthouse received electricity in 1934. In the 1960s it was replaced by a more modern signal tower. After plans were made to demolish the lighthouse it wound up in public ownership and eventually was transferred to the Oregon State Parks department. Vandalism eventually led to the demolition of the keeper's housing.
The trail between the lighthouse parking lot and the lighthouse is paved, but is somewhat steep at the very west end as it drops downhill to get to the lighthouse.
There are no restrooms at the lighthouse proper. The state park restrooms are uphill from the parking lot on the trail that leads to the octopus tree.
It is not known exactly what forces caused this Sitka Spruce to form in such an unusual shape for an evergreen tree. However, it has become a fairly well known tree, and though from a distance is blends in fairly well with the rest of the forest, as the height isn't extreme, the huge diamater at the base among the many trunks make it seem very old.
It is estimated to be approximately 250 to 300 years old.
In the main photo, note that there is a person standing near the base to give you the impression of the size of the tree.
Over the years, a few of these amazing branch trunks (some of them extending some 16 feet from the base of the tree before shooting up vertically) have had to be trimmed off as they seemed to pose a danger to tourists and to the health of the tree itself. It is possible to see some of the places where these have been cut off.
Some of the local native population have said that the tree was not shaped by natural forces, but instead was shaped like this for many years of use as a holder of various items during ceremonies. There are others that claim this tree is obviously shaped by Native Americans and that the Pacifc Northwest was once scattered with such ceremonial trees. It does seem to be fairly likely this tree was artificially shaped considering the evidence, but no official evidence exists.
The trail to the tree from the Cape Meares Lighthouse parking lot leaves from the east side of the parking lot. It is paved for the very short distance from the parking lot to the restroom facilities, and from there to the tree it is a dirt trail through the forest. The trail is well marked.
Don't miss the viewpoint just past the tree that looks south towards Three Arch Rocks and Along the Coast.
There are several viewpoints along the edge of the cliff at Cape Meares.
Looking west, you can see the Pacific Ocean and the rugged beauty of the rocks that stick out of the ocean and made this a good place to put a lighthouse in the first place. The largest of these two rocks are Pillar Rock and Pyramid Rock. In the summer these are "nesting" grounds for Common Murre and other ocean birds, though "nesting" on these rocks would be a bit of an overstatement. The birds simply settle on the rock long enough to lay and hatch an egg. As there is very limited safe ground for these birds to nest on, there are thousands upon thousands that settle on the suitable locations on these rocks.
These rocks are part of the Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge.
The viewpoints feature a number of signs to help identify the local bird life, and explain their life cycle.
You will want to take some serious telephoto equipment (spotting scopes, tripods, serious telephoto lenses) if you want to take a look at the birds, as the rocks are quite far away, and the Pacific Ocean (where the birds feed) is a long way down.
There are several viewpoints on the southern side of Cape Meares, and in fact there is an entire paved trail that runs along the edge of the cliff that provides a number of good views, including several benches you could use as picnic spots overlooking the ocean.
From the parking lot, go directly south to the wooden platform viewpoint that looks south at Three Arch Rocks. This is one of the many viewpoints.
Going west to the light house, the paved trail runs along the edge of the cliff, and provides a number of good viewpoints as well, including the benches.
Also, there is another good viewpoint looking south near the "Octopus Tree" that is located inside the forest past the restroom facilities at the lighthouse parking lot.
During the summer months, the waters on the south side of Cape Meares tend to be a popular place for sea birds to hunt for food. You will notice a distinct pattern with the birds peaking during high tides (or so it seems to me).
This is a nice 1890 lighthouse in a beautiful location. It is the shortest one in Oregon--It didn't need to be tall because it was already high up on a cliff.
It has a Fresnel lens that was made in Paris, shipped around Cape Horn to Cape Meares and then hauled up the cliff. The lens made one revolution every 4 minutes. It produced about 30 seconds of fixed white light from the primary lens followed by a red flash of 5 seconds from the bull's-eye lens once every minute. This was the signature of the Cape Meares Lighthouse. The light could be seen 21 miles at sea.
Open daily April through October from 11 am to 4 pm. No charge to visit
The Cape Meares Lighthouse was built in 1890. It's located 10 miles west of Tillamook and U.S. 101. It's height above water is 217 feet and it's height above land is 38 feet. The tower is the shortest lighthouse tower on the coast of Oregon.
The beam is white and red and is seen for 21 miles.
The lighthouse is open free of charge April through October 11 to 4. It is wheelchair accessible on a wide asphalt trail. There is a nice gift shop there. The money collected from the things that are sold there is used to care for the lighthouse.
Cape Meares was suggested to us for our trip , so we tried our best to accomodate it---very much recommended if possible---a great drive around beautiful beaches, cliffs, and many sights along the coastal corner of Oregon. The lighthouse is spectacular and the trails lead to great views.
Despite the reliance of the Oregon Coast on timber, and the resulting conversion of the state and national forests to large scale commercial forests, there are a few rare scattered trees that are remains of what the forests here used to look like.
These trees are especially rare on the very edge of the Oregon coast, as winds chop of the tops of trees after they get past a certain height, and the soil itself usually doesn't have much to support large trees as the rocks are shallow and not nutrient rich.
However, there are one or two rare exceptions, and one of those exceptions is at Cape Meares State Park. The tree is not a true giant as encountered in decades past in some areas of the Oregon forests, but it is still a reminder of what the trees in our forests used to look like before being replaced by Douglas fir that are a fraction of the size and a fraction of the number of decades old.
It is thought to be the current largest Sitka Spruce in the state of Oregon, after the Klootchy Creek Giant Sitka Spruce just a little north of here died in a 2007 storm. That tree used to be the worlds largest Sitka Spruce and was a remnant of the once mighty coastal spruce forests that have now given way to Douglas Fir.
This tree is now the state's largest Sitka Spruce, and is yet another testament to a type of forest that is now long gone from Oregon. The top blew off of it many years ago, as is the case with most Oregon coastal trees, but even so the remains are an impressive testament to these big old trees and the forests they create. One can only imagine what this tree would have been like had it been rooted a little further inland and a little more sheltered so that it could reach its full height.
Unfortunately, no camera can really do it justice as it is not possible to get photographs of the entire tree from one location. From far away the tree looses its impressive size, and from close up it is not possible to see the entire tree.
The trail to the tree is fairly short, but it is steep in sections and quite rough in places. The trail starts at the absolute top of the hill at the entrance to the state park. There is a small parking area here with a trailhead. The left fork goes uphill to the tree and the right fork goes steeply downhill to a small beach.
If you walk the trail, take time to listen to the voice of the woods. Especially in May and June you will hear the amazing calls of the Varied Thrush, the Pacific Wren, and Swainson's Thrush. Woodpeckers enjoy a snag that is visible from the trail, approximately 100 feet east of the big tree, looking east towards Tillamook. If they are around, you will probably hear their pounding.
Just north of the little town of Cape Meares and the Cape Meares State Park, you will find a long, thin peninsula that divides Tillamook Bay from the Pacific Ocean. This is the Bayocean Peninsula.
Around 1912, a bunch of resort developers decided that this peninsula would be a great place to construct an ocean resort town. Unfortunately, when constructing anything on the edge of the ocean it must be properly understood what this construction will do to the ocean and tidal current. This was not done when the community of Bayocean was constructed here. The construction of the community radically changed the tidal currents and the erosion effect on the peninsula. By 1960, the last house collapsed into the water.
Efforts were made to construct a dike, which stabilized the erosion of the peninsula. Construction of buildings on the unstable peninsula was no longer allowed, and it became a public access park.
Today, you can drive approximately 1/2 a mile north from the paved road to a gravel parking area. This serves as a trailhead for the small trail system that has been constructed that wanders about the entire peninsula. From north to south the entire peninsula is approximately 3 miles in length, and the trails wander around the peninsula quite a bit.
You will find that there are a lot of unofficial trails that wander around the peninsula. Please stay off these as much as possible, as they create confusion as well as helping to recreate the severe erosion problem that plagues this peninsula.
Tillamook Bay is a popular wintering ground for various salt water birds, and is a stopping point for various shore birds on their way north during the spring migration. Hunting season will see many people with guns wandering the peninsula, and don't be too surprised to hear gunshots during this time.
The main trail runs along the east side of the peninsula, and used to be the road serving the communities on the peninsula. Today it is simply a very wide trail - or a somewhat narrow gravel road. The west side of the peninsula is entirely beach, and walking the beach is the best way to explore that side of the peninsula. Several trails connect the two at several points along the peninsula.
Much of the peninsula is coastal scrub forest, but the northern part of the peninsula is a more firm rock and larger trees are able to take root here. It is a more dense forest than what is found at the very southern end of the peninsula, where it joins the land.
Bald eagles, an assortment of song birds, kingfishers, and many other birds may be sighted here, but the area is busy during the summer months and most of the bird life takes cover. You will also find deer and larger mammals, but they also take cover during the popular summer months.
There are no restrooms or much else in the way of facilities at the peninsula, but there are restrooms available at the Cape Meares State Park and at the primary boat launch area of Bayocean Peninsula Park, which is approximately 2 miles towards Tillamook on the paved road. If you use the parking lot at the boat launching area, you are required to pay a $3 day use fee.
The park is part of the Tillamook County Parks District, for which there is a web site link, below.
This Sitka spruce didn't grow the usual way Each of its 6 limbs are at least 12 ft. around, and they go horizontally as much as 30 ft. before turning up. The tree is 50 ft. in circumference.
The views from Cape Meares, and on down the Three Capes Loop, are spectacular. Go slow and enjoy the scenery!