Wildness rules Whalen Island!
Take a deep breath and savor a place meant for the quiet times at the only Oregon state park that’s a coastal island getaway.
(Courtesy: Don Best)
Clay Myers Natural Area in Tillamook County includes nearly two hundred acres of forest, sand and estuary and it’s a place meant for the quiet times.
The state park property at Whalen Island is prized because there are few folks around.
“We don’t get huge amounts of use here,” noted Oregon State Parks and Recreation Manager, Pete Marvin. “You often have the place pretty much to yourself; especially in the off season and that makes it nice.”
The waterway surrounding Whalen Island is called Sandlake and it is shallow throughout; it averages just 2 feet deep at flood tide.
The estuary wraps around the island on the high tide and that is the time you will find paddlers like Marc Hinz launching kayak excursions to explore the parkland.
“I like to bring folks here to enjoy the quiet, serene and secluded nature of the waterway,” said Hinz.
Marc Hinz is a co-owner of Kayak Tillamook and he leads tours for a company that specializes in coastal estuary trips: “You don’t see many people here because it’s too shallow for motorized boats.”
Hinz added that Sandlake’s isolation means paddlers should be prepared to handle any issue that might arise on the water.
“Even though it is a shallow waterway, there are deeper parts and the tide does recede out into the ocean. So it’s important to wear your PFD, bring an extra paddle, basic first aid and a communication device in case you get into trouble.”
Whalen Island is tucked between two landmark coastal features: Cape Lookout to the north, a massive forested headland that juts more than two-miles out to sea.
Cape Kiwanda is to the south and where you’re face to face with an offshore island called Haystack Rock. There is also a giant sandy hillside that is perfect playground for the young at heart.
Don’t miss the popular destination that satisfies both thirst and appetite called the Pelican Pub and Brewery.
Tillamook County manages Whalen Island Campground’s eight acres that offers 30 sites for tents or trailer. There are no water or electricity hooks ups, so your rig must be self-contained.
Back in 2000, when Oregon State Parks acquired Whalen Island, they built a trail to provide visitors access across the property.
The looped trail is two and a half miles long and winds through a forest setting that – every now and then – opens to reveal stunning views to a sprawling sandy beach (especially at low tide) with ocean breakers just beyond.
(Courtesy: Don Best)
"The park is unusual for sure," added Marvin. “It’s an island in the middle of one of the most pristine estuaries along the entire Oregon coast. It is special, unique and should be prized by those who come to visit. It’s Oregon!”