Cannon Beach, Oregon

March 2, 2012 by staff 

Cannon Beach, Oregon, Cannon Beach is a city in Clatsop County, Oregon, United States. The population was 1,588 as of the 2000 census. The 2007 estimate is 1,680 residents.
The first recorded journey by a European to what is now Cannon Beach was made by William Clark, one of the leaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in early 1806. The expedition was wintering at Fort Clatsop, roughly 20 miles to the north near the mouth of the Columbia River. In December 1805, two members of the expedition returned to camp with blubber from a whale that had beached several miles south, near the mouth of Ecola Creek. Clark later explored the region himself. From a spot near the western cliffs of the headland he saw “…the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed, in front of a boundless Ocean…” That viewpoint, later dubbed “Clark’s Point of View,” can be accessed by a hiking trail from Indian Beach in Ecola State Park.

Clark and several of his companions, including Sacagawea, completed a three day journey on January 10, 1806 to the site of the beached whale. They encountered a group of Native Americans from the Tillamook tribe who were boiling blubber for storage. Clark and his party met with them and successfully bartered for 300 pounds (140 kg) of blubber and some whale oil before returning to Fort Clatsop.

Clark applied the name “Ekoli” to what is now Ecola Creek. Ehkoli is a Chinook word for “whale”. Early settlers later renamed the creek “Elk Creek”, and a community with the same name formed nearby.

In 1846, a cannon from the US Navy schooner Shark washed ashore just north of Arch Cape, a few miles to the south of the community. The schooner hit land while attempting to cross the Columbia Bar, also known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific.” The cannon, rediscovered in 1898, eventually inspired a name change for the growing community. In 1922, Elk Creek was redubbed Cannon Beach (after the name of the beach that extends south of Ecola creek for eight miles, ending at Arch Cape) at the insistence of the Post Office Department because the name was frequently confused with Eola. Elk Creek itself was renamed Ecola Creek to honor William Clark’s original name.

The cannon is now housed in the city’s museum and a replica of it can be seen alongside U.S. Route 101. Two more cannons, also believed to have been from the Shark, were discovered on Arch Cape over the weekend of February 16, 2008.

U.S. Route 101 formerly ran through Cannon Beach. In 1964, a tsunami generated by the Good Friday Earthquake came ashore along the coast of the Pacific Northwest. The subsequent flooding inundated parts of Cannon Beach and washed away the highway bridge located on the north side of city. The city, now isolated from the highway, decided to attract visitors by holding a sand castle contest-an event that still continues annually every June.

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