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Oregon

Cascade Head Preserve


Why You Should Visit    

A haven for rare plants, wildlife and grassland communities once abundant along the Oregon Coast, Cascade Head provides critical habitat for native prairie grasses, rare wildflowers and the Oregon silverspot butterfly.

Location

North of Lincoln City, in Northwest Oregon

Size

270 acres

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site  

In the early 1960s, volunteers organized an effort to protect Cascade Head from development. The Conservancy bought it in 1966 from the owner of the Cascade Head Ranch development with funds raised in part by local volunteers and the Mazama’s hiking club. Because of its ecological significance, Cascade Head Preserve and surrounding national forest and other lands have won recognition as a National Scenic Research Area and a United Nations Biosphere Reserve.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

Thanks to your support, researchers are testing methods of maintaining and restoring grassland habitat for the Oregon silverspot butterfly, including prescribed fire. But it takes a few years for the early blue violet — the butterfly's host plant — to reach maturity. As a "stop-gap measure," the Conservancy teamed up with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lewis and Clark College and the Oregon Zoo to gather female silverspots for captive rearing. After being hatched and raised at the college and zoo, their progeny are reintroduced as pupae to the preserve. See photos from a butterfly release.

Conservancy ecologists also monitor the populations of rare plants throughout the year. In spring and summer, teams of volunteers remove invasive species such as Himalayan blackberry, help maintain trails, assist with research projects and teach visitors about the preserve. Join our volunteer team today!

Additionally, our scientists are also helping evaluate sites off Oregon's coast to better protect natural resources, including right off Cascade Head. The marine reserves will protect fish as they rear and grow; then the fish disperse into areas where they can be sustainably harvested.

What to See: Animals

The Oregon silverspot butterfly, federally listed as a threatened species, is known to only four other locations in the world. The butterfly depends on a single plant species, the early blue violet (which grows in coastal grassland openings), to serve as food for its larvae. Elk, deer, coyote, snowshoe hare and the Pacific giant salamander frequent the preserve, while bald eagle, great horned owl, northern harrier, red-tail hawk and the occasional peregrine falcon soar in hunting forays over the grassy slopes.

What to See: Plants

Formed by the uplift of underwater volcanic basalt flows, the headland is unusual for the extent of its prairies dominated by native species: red fescue, wild rye, Pacific reedgrass, coastal paintbrush, goldenrod, blue violet and streambank lupine. Rare wildflowers include hairy checkermallow and the Cascade Head catchfly, with 99% of the catchfly's world population found only here.

Each year more than 15,000 visitors hike Cascade Head Preserve to enjoy the views, wildflowers and wildlife.

Please observe the following guidelines while hiking:

  • Stay on the trail. Don't collect plants, insects or other species or disturb soil, rocks, artifacts or scientific research markers.
  • No dogs. Preserves harbor ground-nesting birds and other wildlife that are extremely sensitive to disturbance.
  • No bicycles or motorized vehicles. Native plants and research sites are easily trampled.
  • No hunting, camping or campfires.
  • For groups of 10 or more, please contact us before visiting a preserve (a volunteer naturalist guide may be available).
  • Please bring a bag and carry out any trash you find.
  • Please report to us any problems you observe (e.g., camping, plant removal, hunting, off-road vehicle damage, etc).
Directions

There are two trails on Cascade Head. To reach the lower trail (a more vigorous hike to the top of the headland):

  • Head north on US 101 from Lincoln City. 
  • Just north of the Salmon River, turn west on Three Rocks Road. 
  • At 2 miles, take the left fork and park in Knight Park.
  • The trailhead begins there. It crosses through private and U.S. Forest Service property and over a narrow winding road, so please use caution and respect private property. 

The upper trail (a more level 1-mile hike to the upper viewpoint) is closed by the U.S. Forest Service from January 1 to July 15. To reach it:

  • Drive 2.4 miles north of the Salmon River, almost to the summit of Cascade Head.
  • Turn left on Cascade Head Road (USFS Road 1861).
  • Continue approximately 3.5 miles, bearing left when the road forks. (There is a U.S. Forest Service trail to Harts Cove at the end of this road.)
  • The upper trailhead is marked by a small parking lot and sign. At the upper viewpoint, the trail drops steeply 500 feet to connect with the lower trail.

 

Discussion

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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