Author Archives: the Oregon State Parks Team

Spring whale watching wonders


Laurel Hillmann

Laurel Hillmann

Our own Ocean Shores Resource Specialist Laurel Hillmann took her family to the coast earlier this month and spotted gray whales off Cape Lookout. She shares her trip as a reminder to start planning your own family whale excursion during Spring Break. See the bottom of this story for Spring Whale Watch Week (March 21-28) information.

On a recent beautiful Sunday, my family and I set out from the Willamette Valley looking for a coastal adventure. How could we not on such a clear and unseasonably warm March day? We decided on Cape Lookout, where we could enjoy a family friendly hike and possibly glimpse the season’s first whales migrating north to their summer grounds.

Cape Lookout looking south toward Cape Kiwanda

After about a mile on the 2.4-mile Cape Trail, an opening in the lush vegetation provides for one of the most amazing views on the Oregon coast. Even if you don’t need a break—with two small kids in tow, we certainly did— it is hard to pass up. The vantage point, framed by large Sitka spruce trees, provides for sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. On rare days like this, it’s as calm and inviting as a large bath-tub.

It didn’t take long for a spout to catch our attention, and we enjoyed watching what appeared to be several whales. My daughter believes it was a mamma whale and her baby, which it very well could have been this time of year. The headland sits up above the ocean at over 800 feet in places, so I admit to briefly lamenting our lack of binoculars (a casualty of rushing out the door). However, we could still see the gray backs of the whales as they broke the glassy surface.

I hope I never lose the sense of wonder kids express when doing or seeing something for the first time. I certainly never tire of seeing whales, even at a distance! While the whales stole the show for my kids, it’s impossible not to wonder at Cape Lookout’s magnificent coastal views showcasing the sandy beaches and dunes around Sand Lake, Cape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock at almost 10 miles away. On a clear day like this one, we were even able to see as far as Cascade Head (20 miles south) and Cape Foulweather (almost 40 miles south), two other amazing spots to visit for whale watching.  We also passed the season’s first wildflowers, including trillium, a sure sign that spring is upon us.

Trillium on the Cape Lookout Trail

We ended our trip playing in the sand and taking in the scenery at Cape Kiwanda. The monolithic Haystack Rock at Pacific City juts out of the Pacific at an estimated height of over 340 feet! It was fun to see it up close-up after looking down on it from afar up on Cape Lookout. Someday our kids will be old enough to stick it out just a bit longer in the car, and we’ll make it up to Oregon’s other Haystack Rock and explore one of my other favorite coastal parks, Ecola—another great spot for whale-watching.

Cape Kiwanda Haystack Rock

Spring Whale Watch Week, March 21-28

Trained volunteers will be stationed at 24 Whale Watching Spoken Here sites March 21-28, 10 a.m. -1 p.m. to help you see the gray whales migrating north. Mothers and their calves are headed to the waters off Alaska.

If you’re along the central coast, stop by the Whale Watching Center  in Depoe Bay.

Capitol cherry blossom festival set for March 28


Cherry-Blossom-Poster

The flowering cherry trees at State Capitol State Park may be still blooming March 28 with some help from our weather. But even if the blossoms are floating to the ground, the beauty of Cherry Blossom Day at the Capitol goes on.

The free event runs 11 a.m.-3 p.m.  All indoor activities will be held in the Capitol Rotunda, Galleria and second floor. Outdoor events are set for the north Capitol Steps.

  • Opening Ceremony (11-11:15 a.m.) with Salem Mayor Anna Peterson
  • Activities, displays, exhibits, tea ceremony, video, ikebana (11 a.m.-3 p.m.)

Willamette Heritage Center
Oregon Cherry Growers, Inc.
Artists in Action – Salem Photo League
Salem’s CCTV
Japanese Cultural Society
Master Gardeners
Willamette University Japan Studies Student Leaders

  • Tastings (11 a.m.-3 p.m. while supplies last)

Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Ice Cream
Willamette Valley Pie Company
Oregon Cherry Grower’s, Inc.

  • Photography Awards (12-12:30 p.m.)
  • Performances (1-3 p.m.)

Koto – traditional Japanese stringed instrument
Bon Dance – traditional Japanese dance
Kimono Fashion Show
3Shine Flamenco – Arts Studio with connections to
Japan and Spain

Capitol Steps Schedule (10:50 a.m.- 2:30 p.m.)

Karate – demonstration
Dance Leo – dance of traditional costuming and music
Monmouth Taiko – Japanese percussion instruments
Monmouth Taiko – percussion used for communication and celebration
Kengido – modern samurai
En Taiko – youth Taiko from Portland

Capitol Tower Tours – 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. Each tour limited to 50 people

Capitol State Park Tours – 30-minute botanical tours at noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. of the grounds  surrounding the Capitol. Times: Noon, 1 and 2 p.m.

Flowering cherry tree blossoms taken March 16, 2015, at State Capitol State Park.

Flowering cherry tree blossoms taken March 16, 2015, at State Capitol State Park.

Waterfalls and Wildflowers!


the Oregon State Parks Team:

Discover Silver Falls is our newest blog. Follow them for the latest information from Oregon’s largest state park.

Originally posted on Discover Silver Falls:

Oaks Toothwort 2Salmonberry 2Oaks Toothwort 5North Falls March 2015South Falls March 2015

Waterfalls and Wildflowers – a few of our visitors’ favorite things!

Spring has come early here at Silver Falls as we set new records for visitors in February due to all the abundant sunshine.  March seems to have picked up right where February left off with our wildflowers starting to bloom.  The dark pink flower above is the salmonberry (http://www.pnwflowers.com/flower/rubus-spectabilis) and the lighter purple flower is the oaks toothwort (http://www.pnwflowers.com/flower/cardamine-nuttallii-var-nuttallii).

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Grant’s Getaways: Tamolitch, the Blue Pool


The McKenzie River National Recreation Trail is in the Willamette National Forest and all nearby campgrounds are either federal or county.