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N. Oregon Coast's Indian Beach at Cannon Beach, Historical and Film Fame

Published 03/11/22 at 6:45 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

N. Oregon Coast's Indian Beach at Cannon Beach, Historical and Film Fame

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(Cannon Beach, Oregon) - At the northern end of Cannon Beach's Ecola State Park, another 1.5 miles after the main section of the park, you'll find a crescent-shaped beach filled with cobblestones, where an engaging view of Tillamook Rock Lighthouse and plenty of rocky shapes stand fast and get slammed by large waves. The parking lot and a viewpoint slightly below are your first introduction to this amazing spot.

Look for the signs to Indian Beach.

This north famed Oregon coast semi-circle is enclosed by two headlands, with maybe a quarter mile worth of walking area to it. There's much in the way of views here, but there's history as well. Some of it is Hollywood history.

From here, “Goonies Rock” is obvious – the big rock out there with the gaping hole in it, made famous by, well, a misunderstanding or something. That iconic scene in the film where the ship wanders through a giant hole was not actually filmed on the Oregon coast – though enormous chunks of the movie were. That scene with the massive gap was from a rock structure in California, where that whole scene was actually done. The rock here in Cannon Beach got the name Goonies Rock because, well, it just stuck for some reason.

There were plenty of iconic moments in Goonies filmed at Ecola State Park, including the giant main lookout where you look down on Crescent Beach, and it's where the lighthouse and home for the Fratelli's was built by the film crew (yet neither structure existed there before or after the film.)

Cannon Beach's famed Haystack Rock is actually used in the film a few times, and probably should be called Goonies Rock as well as its real name.

Actual forested path down to Indian Beach

Truly caught on celluloid at Indian Beach was the final scene of the original Point Break flick, where it's purportedly a famed surfing beach in Australia. Movie editing magic is used in an interesting way in this scene, where it starts out with Keanu Reeves' character walking at the train tracks in Wheeler, then down a forested path. From here it cuts to him emerging at Indian Beach, which makes for an interesting “whoa” moment for those familiar with both spots.

Indian Beach was also made famous in the first Twilight movie, where a surfing scene set in Forks, Washington is actually the parking lot of this beach. Goonies Rock is visible in the scene.

Higher tides at Indian Beach leave it a small and dangerous spot, with not much in the way of sand to traverse. Even so, it's mesmerizing, and it's a good spot to watch storms from above.

Lower tides find Indian Beach a decently wide stretch of sandy fun, and you can peer into some interesting secretive sections at the very northern tip. To get to Indian Beach, drive into Ecola State Park and follow the signs.

Some of the best of Oregon coast history is practically screaming in your face as you look westward: the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, or Terrible Tilly as she's been called. This is the closest you'll ever get to the atmospheric and slightly eerie beauty, a remote, jagged rock that started its life as a lighthouse in the 1880s and continued until the 1950s. After that, it went through several periods of decay, interspersed with being a columbarium – a place to hold ashes of the dead. See The Misty Mysteries of an Oregon Lighthouse: Tillamook Rock

Historically, Ecola State Park has been through the ringer at times. Massive landslides have cut it off from visitors every five to ten years it seems, with a particularly catastrophic one in the early '60s, where a girl went missing.

The area also saw a murder in the late 1990s when a couple had an argument and the woman accidentally shoved her boyfriend to his death along a trail here.

The park really got its start in the 1930s as Highway 101 was getting finished up, but the state wasn't quite hip to promoting the Oregon coast until many facilities were installed, usually by the Civilian Conservation Corps. That finally happened about 1937, and that's when an article in The Oregon Daily Journal written by Herbert Lundy describes an early visit to Ecola State Park. Back then, Highway 101 was not quite completely connected, as the bridge near Short Sand Beach still had to be built. He had to go up and around Highway 53 to get to Cannon Beach (which had only had that name for not even 20 years at this point).

Lundy describes winter waves thrashing the lighthouse offshore – still in use – with waves sometimes as high as the main viewpoint at Ecola. He writes of a much more rugged, untamed place back then, and some sights you can't see now but plenty that are familiar, even timeless.

“Nearer the coast line were rocks almost covered with brown, bulky sea lions, lazying in the sun. Tillamook Head, to the north, lies mostly within the boundaries of Ecola State Park. Spruce and hemlock grow profusely throughout the area, their branches twisted into grotesque shapes where exposed to the wind.”

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