Oh Oregon! Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area

Chief Kiawanda Rock Composition 1
Chief Kiawanda Rock Composition 1

During our trip north along the Oregon’s scenic Highway 101, we detoured off the highway along the northern boundary of Nestucca Bay to Pacific City and the Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area.  I specifically wanted to see (translation – photograph) the iconic Chief Kiawanda Rock – a sea stack geological formation.   Upon our arrival, I found the tall sandstone cliffs jetting out into the ocean and the enormous Great Dune equally impressive.

Cape Kiwanda Great Dune Composition 1
Cape Kiwanda Great Dune Composition 1

The sandy beach and adjacent sand hills were popular among the numerous visitors.  My younger son Parker and I climbed the sand hill to reach the top edge of the sandstone cliffs.  A fence warned visitors of the dangerous cliffs.  Seeing a few others exploring the cliffs and boulders, we cautiously and perhaps foolishly climbed under the fence to gain a better view from of Chief Kiawanda Rock.

Cape Kiwanda Landscape 1
Cape Kiwanda Landscape 1

Making our way to the top, we backtracked to find a safer route to the top of the cliff.  My rule for Parker and I was to stay 20 feet away from edge of cliffs.  I’m glad we did; while researching the area for this post, I learned 7 people have died – falling into sea from crumbling sandstone cliffs! Below is a photo of Parker with Pacific City in the background.

20ft from Cliff Edge at Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area
20ft from Cliff Edge at Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area
Cape Kiwanda Great Dune Composition 2
Cape Kiwanda Great Dune Composition 2

The area was originally inhabited by the Nestugga and Killamook Native Americans.  The names evolved into Nestucca (as in the Nestucca River) and Tillamook – the city to the north with the huge cheese factory.  The sea stack was named after Chief Kiawanda, whose name has also changed over time to Kiwanda.  In the past, some referred to the sea stack as Haystack Rock, but this is often confused with the also iconic Haystack Rock 65 miles to the north at Cannon Beach.   Today the locals in Pacific City, and most maps, refer to it as Chief Kiawanda Rock.

Cape Kiwanda Cove and Cave Composition 1
Cape Kiwanda Cove and Cave Composition 1

At 341 feet (104 m), Chief Kiawanda Rock is actually 100 ft taller than Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach.  It looks smaller because it is actually almost 3800 ft (3/4 mile, 1189 m) offshore from the beach at Pacific City.  Sea stacks are formed when lava flows collapse under the upper crust and later erupt back to the surface.  Ocean waves and wind carve the rocks into their current shapes.  Most of these sea stacks are considered bird sanctuaries and as such are off-limits to human visitors.

Cape Kiwanda Landscape 2
Cape Kiwanda Landscape 2

I wished we could have stayed longer and had a beer at the original Pelican Brewery location in Pacific City. But, there was still much more to see along the Oregon Coast. For the best viewing experience, click on an image to view a high resolution. Thank you for stopping by!

Cheers,

C. S.

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