Cape Perpetua is a large forested headland on the central Oregon Coast which projects into the Pacific Ocean. The land is managed by the United States Forest Service as part of the Siuslaw National Forest.
Cape Perpetua is located about 2 miles (3 km) south of Yachats, Oregon along U.S. Route 101. It is a typical Pacific Northwest headland, forming a high steep bluff above the ocean. At its highest point, Cape Perpetua rises to over 800 feet (240 m) above sea level. From its crest, an observer can see 70 miles (110 km) of Oregon coastline and as far as 37 miles (60 km) out to sea on a clear day.1
Cape Perpetua Shelter and Parapet
West Shelter observation point
|Nearest city||Yachats, Oregon|
|Architect||Civilian Conservation Corps; US Forest Service|
|NRHP Reference #||
|Added to NRHP||March 17, 1989|
For at least 6,000 years Native Americans hunted for mussels, crabs, sea urchins, and clams along the coast near Cape Perpetua. Evidence of their lives can still be found in the huge piles of discarded mussel shells that lie along the shore near the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center.13
Several early explorers sailed past the cape. The first recorded passage was by Bartolomé Ferrelo in 1543; then came Sir Francis Drake in 1575 and Martin d'Aguilar in 1605. The cape was named by Captain James Cook on March 7, 1778 as he searched for the Pacific entrance to a Northwest Passage. Cook named the cape Perpetua because it was sighted on St. Perpetua's Day.45
The area became part of the Siuslaw National Forest in 1908. In 1914, the United States Forest Service cut a narrow road into the cliff around Cape Perpetua and constructed a wooden bridge across the Yachats River, opening travel between the small community of Yachats and Florence, Oregon to the south. The wooden bridge was replaced in 1926 with a steel structure. The Cape Perpetua section of the Roosevelt Memorial Highway (now Highway 101) was built in the 1930s.34
In 1933, a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp was built at the foot of the cape just north of Cape Creek near where the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center is located today. The CCC constructed Cape Perpetua campground,6 a network of trails, and the West Shelter observation point near the top of the cape. During World War II, the West Shelter observation point was used as a coastal watch station and a large coastal defense gun was temporarily installed.147 An SCR-270B radar was installed at an undetermined location to take advantage of the height of the promontory.8
The Forest Service created the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area and built the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center in the 1960s to highlight the unique beauty of the central Oregon Coast. The scenic area includes 2,700 acres (11 km2) of old growth spruce, Douglas-fir and western hemlock.1
Camping, picnicking, hiking, sightseeing, whale watching, and a visitor center with daily programs are all available within the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. There are twenty-six miles of interconnected hiking trails in old growth forests which lead to Pacific Ocean tidal pools.19 One of the trails leads to a 600 year old Giant Sitka Spruce known as the Silent Sentinel of the Siuslaw. This tree stands more than 185 feet (56 m) high, and has a 40-foot (12 m) circumference at its base.10 On September 15, 2007, this ancient spruce was designated a "Heritage Tree" by the State of Oregon to recognize its exceptional age and size and ensure its protection.1
Along the Cape Perpetua coastline there are several unique features as well. The Devil’s Churn is a long crack in the coastal rock that fills with each ocean wave, occasionally exploding as incoming and outgoing waves collide. The Spouting Horn at Cook's Chasm and Thor's Well on the plateau nearby are both salt water fountains driven by the power of the ocean tide. Thor's Well is at . Spouting Horn is at . Both Thor's Well and Spouting Horn are best seen approximately an hour before high tide to an hour after high tide. How spectacular the sights are is a function of the height of the high tide and the direction and size of the swells. The wind can also be a factor. Devil’s Churn, Spouting Horn and Thor's Well are popular with visitors; however, all three can be dangerous especially at high tide and during winter storms.1
The Cape Perpetua Visitor Center is located two miles (3 km) south of Yachats. The visitor center offers spectacular views of the ocean and coast from its deck. It is also a popular place to watch migrating gray whales. The visitor center has comprehensive natural history and cultural exhibits, an interactive children's science area, a theater with nature films, and a bookstore. At the shelter there was never a gun installation. An SCR270B radar was installed on the site in 1943 in response to the bombing of Mt. Emily, Brookings, Oregon.1
- Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, USDA Forest Service, Siuslaw National Forest, February 12, 2007.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.
- Sullivan, William L., Hiking Oregon’s History, Navillus Press, Eugene, Oregon, 2000.
- "Yachats History", City of Yachats, Lincoln County, Oregon, January 12, 2008.
- "Cape Perpetua Scenic Area", National Scenic Byways Program, Federal Highway Administration, United States Department of Transportation, 2007.
- "The CCC Camp at Cape Perpetua", Yachats Area Chamber of Commerce, Yachats, Oregon, 2008.
- Lewis, William B. (February 2009). "World War II Mystery Solved". Oregon Coast Magazine (Northwest Magazines).
- Travel Oregon, Oregon Tourism Commission, Salem, Oregon, 2008.
- Eberly, Laura, "Silent Sentinel of the Siuslaw named Oregon Heritage Tree", Newport News-Times, July 21, 2006.