About Cannon Beach
Walk this sandy stretch of beach crowned by iconic Haystack Rock, and you’ll quickly see why it was called one of the 100 Most Beautiful Places in the World by National Geographic. Stunning coastline views and outstanding natural areas blend with a charming beach village just 90 minutes from Portland. Known as one of the top art towns in America, this walkable community is dotted with art galleries, shopping boutiques, fine restaurants, and premier hotels, all within short walking distance of the beach.
A Brief History of Cannon Beach
The beauty and bounty of Oregon's North Coast had been home to the Clatsop, Nehalem, Tillamook, and other Tribes for generations when the first Europeans began reaching its shores. Spanish explorers like Juan de Fuca were nosing around the Pacific Northwest as early as the 1500s, followed by British, Americans, and others trading furs and looking for the elusive Northwest Passage.
Dick Basch, a lifelong Cannon Beach resident, is a descendant of those who once lived in the village of Cannon Beach. As vice chairman of the Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated Tribes, he's worked with city leaders and local organizations to ensure local tribal history is known. "We are still here," he says. "We're not merely a monument in our old village site. We are part of the community. We hold our arms open for visitors and locals in Cannon Beach." He suggests that visitors check out the Welcome Pole -a 10-foot-tall cedar log located at NeCus' Park, which used to be the old Cannon Beach School. This site along the bank of Ecola Creek at the park's edge marks the location of the last NeCus' village in Cannon Beach before colonization.
It was also here that William Clark, Sacagawea, and other members of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition met and traded with local tribes. The Welcome Pole is one of the highlights of the Cannon Beach Public Art Walking Tour. "People are welcome as long as they treat the land and the people who live there in a good way and with respect," Basch says. Go to Clatsop-Nehalem.com to learn more.
Clark, one of the first white settlers to land in Cannon Beach, was imminently impressed. Standing near the summit of Tillamook Head afforded "the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed," he wrote in his journal in 1806.
The explorers' good fortune continued when the team learned of tribal members harvesting a beached whale that washed ashore near Chapman Beach. Clark arrived in time to trade for 300 pounds of whale blubber and a few gallons of highly prized oil. Clark commemorated the event by naming the adjacent creek Ecola (a rough pronunciation of the Chinook trade word for "whale"), a moniker that was also later applied to then 1,023-acre state park that preserves the magnificent coastal landscape rising to the north.
Near the corner of Hemlock and Third Street, tiny Whale Park commemorates the historical encounter with the bronze sculpture Whale and fine sand, surf, and sea overlook. It's how things are done in Cannon Beach: effortlessly weaving together the community's natural beauty, rich history, and artistic soul.
The Cannons of Cannon Beach
Along with that whale, a famous shark also earned a chapter in Cannon Beach history - specifically the USS Shark, a storied naval schooner that gave Cannon Beach its name. Launched in 1821, the Shark quickly built up quite a legacy. The ship and its crew claimed Key West for the United States, transported John James Audubon for wildlife study, suppressed the African slave trade in the West Indies, fought pirates, and sailed across the Atlantic to defend American interests in the Mediterranean.
In 1839 the USS Shark crossed the pond again to become the first U.S. Navy warship to pass through the Strait of Magellan for duty in the Pacific. Returning from an exploratory survey up the Columbia River, Shark met up with the full fury of the infamous Columbia River Bar. Strong winds, high seas, and a maelstrom of currents and tides at the river's mouth sent Shark into the shoals, where it foundered and sank in September 1846.
The crew was saved and, as it turns out, so were some of its cannons. Sightings of the USS Shark cannons in the surf and sand swirled around for years, enough for an early settler to name the area Cannon Beach in 1891. One finally reappeared in the waters of Arch Cape Creek to great excitement in 1898; two more emerged out of the sand more than a century later, in 2008. Today visitors can view the first one at the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum, where a permanent exhibit shares the illustrious story of the USS Shark and its elusive Cannon Beach cannons.