Cannon Beach History, Culture, and Scenery

cannon beach haystack rock

Cannon Beach is one of the oldest and most popular destinations on the Oregon Coast. In fact, it was even visited by William Clark more than 200 years ago during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He journeyed to the beach in January 1806 with several other members of the expedition, including Sacagawea.

The expedition was then spending the winter at Fort Clatsop, about 20 miles north of Cannon Beach. They had heard of a beached whale in the area, and Clark’s party went to look for the spot.

On their way, they met a group of Tillamook Native Americans who had found and stripped the whale that Clark was searching for. The tribe was boiling the whale’s blubber to store for food and oil. After meeting with Clark’s group, the tribe agreed to exchange 300 pounds of blubber and oil for trade goods, such as beads, mirrors and knives.
Successful with their journey, Clark named the nearby creek “Ekoli,” which means “whale” in Chinook. It later became known as Ecola Creek, and the national park close by became Ecola State Park.

A few decades after Lewis and Clark’s expedition, pioneers came to settle around the spot where the whale had been found. Soon after they established their community, a cannon was discovered several miles away. It belonged to the Shark, a US Navy schooner that had wrecked while crossing the Columbia River Bar. This cannon eventually inspired the community’s name, Cannon Beach.

Cannon Beach is now one of the loveliest areas on the Oregon Coast. More than two centuries after Clark’s visit, it’s still known for its beautiful beach and surrounding nature. Here are some of the top reasons why people love visiting and living in Cannon Beach.

The Beach

Visitors come to Cannon Beach just to see and experience it’s beach. From Chapman Point in the north to Silver Point in the south, the four miles of sand that stretch alongside the town are famous for two main reasons: Haystack Rock and sandcastle building.

Haystack Rock is one of the most impressive rock formations on the Oregon Coast. Standing 235 feet tall, it rises from the ocean like a giant next to Cannon Beach. It’s an iconic sight as well as a thriving ecosystem. Seabirds nest in its crevices, and starfish and sea anemones make homes in the tide pools around its base. Recently Cannon Beach was named by National Geographic as one of the top beaches in the world.

View of Haystack Rock from an oceanfront home. View More Photos
Cannon Beach View

Besides admiring this coastal landmark, you can marvel at the incredible sand sculptures on the beach during the town’s annual Sandcastle Contest. Started more than 50 years ago, this event is now an Oregon Heritage Tradition. Both amateur and professional artists take part in the competition, which lasts an entire weekend. Other activities during the weekend include a parade, a 5k fun run, and a beach bonfire with live music.

Art Culture

Cannon Beach’s yearly Sandcastle Contest has been so successful partly because the community has a strong art culture. There’s a local Cannon Beach Arts Association, an active Coaster Theatre Playhouse, and many high caliber art galleries throughout the downtown area.

Thanks to the efforts of these organizations, the town has two arts festivals every year. The first, called Spring Unveiling is held in early May and highlights the work of selected artists in each of the town’s galleries. The second, called the Stormy Weather Arts Festival is held every November and showcases inspiring work ranging from poetry and songs to paintings and sculptures.

Events like these allow local artists to display their projects, as well as meet and share ideas with other artists. This community, along with the beautiful nature around Cannon Beach, can be a great source of inspiration.

Natural Scenery

While Clark was exploring the Cannon Beach area, he once climbed a cliff near Ecola Creek. The view was incredible. He later described it as “the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed.” Cannon Beach’s coastal scenery was breathtaking, even after crossing America.

Much of this natural beauty has been preserved in state parks around Cannon Beach. The town is nestled between wilderness areas; Ecola State Park is to the north, and Oswald West State Park is to the south. Hug Point State Recreation Site is also to the south, just 5 miles away from Cannon Beach. Each of these places offers lovely coastal views, picnicking spots, and walks along the beach.

Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock are famous for Tufted Puffins, a pelagic bird that make their nests and breed on the rock itself drawing hundreds of visitors to see these colorful birds from April to June when the baby birds appear.

Making Canon Beach Home

This ideal location has helped make Cannon Beach a popular seaside retreat for Portlanders and a peaceful hometown for nature-lovers and artists alike. All you need is a home with a beautiful view, and you’ll be immersed and inspired by nature every day.

You can live steps to the beach and town. View More Photos
Cannon Beach Home

There are many reasons for visiting Cannon Beach and also numerous ones for making this cute town a new home or second home. While new homeowners come from across the U.S. including the East Coast to purchase homes here, Portland is a significant feeder market for new homes owners in the area. Seattle is a close second source for new homebuyers. Visitors and homeowners from California compare Cannon Beach to Carmel, and for good reason. They both share the beautiful ocean, natural environment, tide pools, strong art focus, are within walking distance to plentiful restaurants and small boutique and retail stores, which many are pet friendly and in close proximity to the beach.

You will never find a Starbucks, Safeway, or any other big box stores in Cannon Beach given the town’s strict building codes that assist with preserving the quaint village look and feel. Come find the charm and enjoy Cannon Beach yourself, you may not want to leave!

Check out Cannon Beach real estate that we currently have available for sale.

categorized in Oregon Coast


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