-3- Ecola State Park

Views from the Park-

A surprise attraction caught our attention as we arrived at  Ecola State Park.  A group of Roosevelt Elk  grazed at the edge of the parking lot. Most of our naturalist group exited vehicles with cameras ready to snap photos of the herd. Although we respected the imaginary line that marked the space between human and ungulate; we were concerned about other visitors who were not being so careful. This is a problem at many State and Federal Parks… humans who tread unaware of the potential dangers that can result from encroaching into wild animal habitat. A lesson many of us in the OSU Master Naturalist will have the opportunity to teach.

Along the park trail, we paused briefly to gaze a mile and a half off shore. There, perched atop Tillamook Rock, is a lighthouse with an illustrious history.Imagine erratic, harsh, cold, ocean surf and steady, strong, chilly winds. Then ponder the task of leveling the top of a basalt sea stack with tools and construction resources that would have been available in 1897. Those were the conditions a lighthouse engineer faced when he boated out to the rock to determine if a lighthouse there would be feasible. Though there were treacherous seas, and a landing was impossible, the engineer decided the rock could be conquered.

He over-estimated conquering the rock as it never was completely “controlled”… the lighthouse was constructed in 525 days through extreme and difficult conditions. For over 77 years, lighthouse keepers kept the light lit despite raging storms that continuously pelted the structure. One storm actually tossed a 135 pound boulder into the dwelling space! Many storms were strong enough to toss rocks up into the lens tower; one broke the Fresnel lens.

In 1957, the lighthouse beacon was replaced by a red whistle buoy, anchored one mile seaward of the rock. That year, on September first, Keeper Oswald Allik, who had served twenty years at the station, turned off the light.In his log, a farewell was written:

Farewell, Tillamook Rock Light Station. An era has ended. With this final entry, and not without sentiment, I return thee to the elements. You, one of the most notorious and yet fascinating of the sea-swept sentinels in the world; long the friend of the tempest-tossed mariner. Through howling gale, thick fog and driving rain your beacon has been a star of hope and your foghorn a voice of encouragement.

May the elements of nature be kind to you. For 77 years you have beamed your light across desolate acres of ocean. Keepers have come and gone; men lived and died; but you were faithful to the end. May your sunset years be good years. Your purpose is now only a symbol, but the lives you have saved and the service you have rendered are worthy of the highest respect. A protector of life and property to all, may old-timers, newcomers and travelers along the way pause from the shore in memory of your humanitarian role.

After its closure, the lighthouse nicknamed, Terrible Tilly, was bought and sold several times. The last purchaser gutted the structure and turned it into the Eternity at Sea Columbarium. A venture that came to an end in 2005 when an application for a new license was rejected due to inaccurate record keeping and improper storage of urns.

Want more information? Click this link:
 http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=135 .

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Geologic Story Panorama-

After passing a 75 foot scarp of a landslide that occurred in 1961, we assembled on the observation deck.  Al shouted out the famous call to attention, “Over here, rockhounds!”

Al looked out at the Pacific, a geologist, still awestruck by what he saw. The geologic stories we heard that afternoon stretched out before us in a panoramic view. He invited us to marvel a while at wondrous, geologic beauty. Some ebbing, some flowing, some held still in noninvasive rock-structures, others waiting in the subduction zone below… then he told one more story. The tale of invasive flows…

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Invasive Flows-

Perched in the viewing platform atop Tillamook Head , our class remained on  the 500 foot sill of middle Miocene basalt as a bit of geologic-controversy was about to unfold…

Charts and maps were assembled… Data, Evidence! Al was about to erode what most of us learned in our introductory physical geography textbooks… that volcanic sills and dikes are fed by magma chambers directly below an eruption point in the Earth’s crust where molten material surfaces as an eruption of lava and explosive volcanic tephra. As North-westerners, many of us comprehend this concept assisted by images of Mt. Saint Helens and other Cascade Range volcanoes. We have learned that original melting of the magma happens at depth directly below where it is erupted. Or does it ??? This is what Al asked us to contemplate…

He proceeded to present a controversial hypothesis that describes how Haystack Rock and other basalt formations  we viewed before us are believed to be re-eruptive pillow lavas that came from a distant magma source. Based on geochemistry and other scientific test data, many geologists have concluded that the Miocene sills, dikes, and submarine breccias in the Astoria basin probably did not erupt from a magma source directly below.

Al and his colleagues are convinced that the lavas that formed these basalt formations originated at a hotspot on the plateau near present-day John Day. Known as the Columbia River Basalt Group, these lava flows traveled two-hundred miles westward to Astoria-Newport coastal marine basins. The catastrophic-scale flows poured down the ancestral Columbia River valley into the Pacific Ocean and spread out through the soft marine sediments for dozens of miles partially filling an ancestral Astoria submarine canyon.Sugarloaf, Onion Peak, and Angora Peak are remnants that resulted from the intracanyon flows.

In some spots, such as Haystack Rock, these flows re-erupted through thousands of feet of mud onto the sea floor, essentially having their own eruptive centers. These lavas then cooled to become solid basalt. Millions of years later as the Coast Range lifted, so did these massive flows. Erosion has taken over to create headlands- such as Tillamook Head and sea stacks- like the famous Haystack Rock.

Sea stacks along the coastline that are seen today are remnants of the Tillamook Head basalts, sandstone, and mudstones. Processes of wave erosion on basalt or sandstone headlands cause sea caves to erode into the headlands. Sea caves merge to form a sea arch. Finally, when the sea arch collapses, a sea stack is created.

In geologic time, this story has no end. What my class and I saw as we gazed over our geology-story-teller’s shoulder are the marks in time that we are privileged to witness. Rock grain by rock grain … moment by moment … under pressure from the Cascadia Subduction Zone just off shore… they decide what new stories lie ahead.

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-1-  Hug Point
-2-  Silver Point
-3-  Ecola State Park
-4-  Necanicum River Estuary
Thoughts about the Cascadian Subduction Zone


  1. Al’s theory makes perfect sense to me. I know zip about geology, but we paid a contractor $4,000 to fix a leak, and the kitchen light fixture still drips when the rain is from the southwest. If water can travel through mysterious paths on a little house, I can’t see why lava wouldn’t find its way through canyons and soft spots.

    The lighthouse story is wonderful!


    1. Thank you, Dandyknife,
      The geologists’ talks about volcanic eruption dynamics was thought-provoking. My thoughts had been that the magma chamber was always below the point of eruption. LOL- the water leak theory could have also applied to a water mainline leak that erupted in our sidewalk last summer! Unlike you,though, we were fortunate that the plumber could stop it once it was located.

      When you are in Lincoln City, you will be about half way from that lighthouse off shore near Cannon Beach, or Yaquina Lighthouse in Newport!
      Smiles, Jane


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