Ecola State Park

The day after we arrived in Cannon Beach, I woke up before sunrise to head up to Ecola State Park for some early morning photography. Ecola State Park is immediately north of Cannon Beach and easily accessible with lots of hiking trails. I wasn’t sure what I would find, but I had seen some images from Ecola State Park that lead me to believe that I should find some nice vistas to shoot. Although the previous day graced us with bright sunny skies, this day turned out to be the opposite. The sky was overcast with a strong breeze off the ocean that kept the clouds pinned against the coastal range. Bummer!! So much for exciting landscapes from the park. Click an image to view larger.

Ecola State Park, Oregon
Chapman Point, Ecola State Park

This is the view from Chapman Point in Ecola State Park looking south. It’s an iconic view that has been photographed thousands of times, and I suspect many people have had the same cloud cover I had. That’s Cannon Beach in the background and Haystack Rock is the largest sea stack in the far background.

Ecola State Park
Terrible Tilly – Tillamook Rock Light

You can also see the Tillamook Rock Light from Ecola State Park. The light is a mile out in the Pacific and was originally only occupied by nesting seabirds. Nicknamed Terrible Tilly due to the erratic weather and sea conditions for the commute to the light, construction begain in 1880 and was completed in January 1881. The rock was blasted to bits and the light built on top of the rock. The light was decommissioned in 1957 and now serves as a columbarium and once again is inhabited by nesting seabirds. The rock can provide some dramatic scenery during fierce winter storms as the waves crash on the rock and cover the light with the over-splash. Since I had a gray sky, gray ocean and color in the image, I converted this image to black and white.

Since I wasn’t having too much luck with landscapes, I turned my attention to wildlife. I was lucky that when I pulled into the parking lot, I was the only one there. Who could imagine that the park would be deserted at 5:30am! Actually, the parking lot wasn’t deserted. In the grass next to the lot was a mother elk and 3 elk fawns. They allowed me time to get my camera out and ready to shoot before they provided terrible compositions and wandered into the high grass to hide. I did get one shot of an elk fawn that I liked, but the rest either had the elk moving or facing the wrong way. I guess they didn’t get the memo on posing for the photographer.

Ecola State Park
Elk Fawn

Fortunately I quickly found a heard of elk that I could shoot. There looked to be one older female, several younger females and one male who, shall we say, was in a somewhat romantic mood. Unfortunately for him, the female was having none of it, and after three attempts, she moved on. Perhaps she didn’t like an audience.

Ecola State Park, Oregon
Frisky Roosevelt Elk

After 90 minutes of working the elk and hoping the clouds might break, I decided to pull out the big lens and see what birds I could find. I was not disappointed. First up was a Song Sparrow that was enjoying the work of what I believe to be a gopher. This pile of dirt kept moving and getting taller, so I suspect there was something tunneling underneath it. I don’t know if Oregon has gophers, so for lack of more evidence, it was a gopher…a busy one. This Song Sparrow and his buddy kept picking off the bugs that were being unearthed. I’m sure they were appreciating the work of the gopher.

Ecola State Park, Oregon
Song Sparrow

Next up was a cooperative Wilson’s Warbler. This beautiful male was a life bird for me, so I was quite happy to have the opportunity to snap off a few frames.

Ecola State Park, Oregon
Wilson’s Warbler

I also spotted a hummingbird and quickly determined it was a Rufous Hummingbird. While not a life bird for me, I hadn’t had a chance to get a great photo of one, so I was glad he stopped by. I was hoping to find an Anna’s Hummingbird on this trip, but dipped on that one. Maybe next time.

Ecola State Park, Oregon
Rufous Hummingbird

Next I found this adult American Robin and a juvenile robin that was begging for breakfast. We get robins in Florida in the winter, but they don’t breed this far south. This was a nice treat to see a youngster.

Ecola State Park, Oregon
Robin Adult and Fledgling

I also found a cooperative flock of Cedar Waxwings munching on some berries. We get the waxwings here in Florida in the winter, but they always seem to be in the tops of the trees here. I was very happy to get these guys at eye level. Having a gray overcast day required that I use flash to get a decent shutter speed. None of these images are prize winners, but I was happy to be able to bring something presentable home for all these species.

Ecola State Park, Oregon
Cedar Waxwing

Later in the afternoon I brought the family back to Ecola State Park for a couple of hours. It was still a wee bit chilly even in the afternoon. Even in summer, temperatures don’t usually get out of the 60’s. Add the wind and you’ll need a couple of layers to stay warm.

Ecola State Park, Oregon
Skip, Mary and Faith enjoying Ecola State Park

By now the park was full of people, but the temperature had warmed up and the clouds started to break up, so it was nice to go up there and enjoy the fresh air. When we returned we saw the elk come back out of the high grass to have a snack. The fawns wouldn’t come out with all the people about, but the adults were kind enough to pose for us.

Ecola State Park, Oregon
Roosevelt Elk Pair

More to come…


  • Jane Walden

    July 25, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    Another fantastic vacation I see. Very inspiring to see your trip in photos. Wish I could get out that way….maybe someday. 🙂

    • Michael

      July 25, 2013 at 8:57 pm

      Thanks, Jane! It’s well worth the trip. This was our second year out there and I’m sure we will be going again…but probably not next year. We love it out there.

  • Ignacio Alvarez

    July 27, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    This park will not disappoint.The drive into the park is impressive enough, but this little spit of land could be argued as one of the most beautiful places on earth. If you are in the area do yourself a favor, pay the $5 fee, and enjoy an amazing spot.When I visited, only for a brief peek, there were maybe 5 or 10 elk grazing on a hillside near the parking lot (Check the pictures). The place was nearly empty, only two other cars with a few people nearby. The whole scene was surreal. I love this place.

  • Jess Yarnell

    July 28, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    You had some great opportunities with the elk! I also like the mood in your cloudy landscape shot. Such pretty coastline!