Get Up Close and Personal With Oregon’s Elk
at the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area
Oregon is known for its wildlife, and elk are some of the most majestic and interesting animals in the state. The Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area, located several miles east of Reedsport Oregon on Hwy. 38, provides plenty of opportunities to see these impressive animals.
History of Elk in Oregon
Elk have been a part of Oregon’s wildlife population since before the arrival of non-native settlers, and The Lewis and Clark expedition heavily depended on elk for survival during the winter of 1805-06 at the mouth of the Columbia River. Both Rocky Mountain elk and Roosevelt elk are native to Oregon. Rocky Mountain elk are found in the eastern part of the state with large concentrations in the Blue Mountains and South-central Oregon. Roosevelt elk are found in the western part of the state, particularly in the Cascade and Coast mountain ranges.
During the latter half of the 19th century ‘market hunting’ and human encroachment on elk range took a heavy toll on Oregon’s elk populations. Thousands of elk were killed for meat, hides and antlers. Reports of elk scarcity became common during the late 1880s and conservation efforts soon followed.
Despite these efforts, Oregon’s elk populations were reduced to only a few small herds along the coast, in the Cascades, and Northeast Oregon and reached their lowest numbers by about 1910. However, by 1922, the population showed signs of recovery and over the years, the population stabilized. Managed elk hunting has since been established, and according to the state’s Department of Fish & Wildlife, in 2000, Oregon’s elk population numbered approximately 120,000 animals.
Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area – Managed for Ultimate Viewing Experiences
Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area near Reedsport Oregon is an important part of the state’s elk management program. The site, which encompasses 1,040 acres, is jointly administered by the Bureau of Land Management and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and is managed with public viewing and education in mind.
Pastures are mowed, grazed, and fertilized to improve the nutrition and palatability for the elk. Portions of the wetland have been enhanced to provide more standing water for a variety of waterfowl. The O.H. Hinsdale Interpretive Center offers information about Oregon’s elk and the environment of the Dean Creek area as well as spotting scopes to enhance viewing. In addition, there is a three-mile viewing area with strategically placed pullouts.
The herd of 60 to 100 Roosevelt elk roams freely in the protected pasture, woodland, and wetland areas, sharing their habitat with other wildlife including bald eagles, Canada geese, beaver, and black-tailed deer. A fence separates them from the roadway.
Best Times to View Elk
In general, early morning and just before dusk are the best times to view and photograph elk at Dean Creek. Mid-September to early October is mating season and males, which can weigh more than 1,000 pounds, can often be seen in the fields bugling and fighting over females. During the winter months the elk stay in the lowlands and tend to bunch together more. Mid-May through June is calving season, and the pregnant females head for the privacy of the upland areas to give birth. By mid-June, the mothers begin leading their new calves back down to the pastureland to enjoy the summer sun.
The viewing area, which is open year-round, has a large parking lot for RVs as well as restroom facilities and handicapped access. For more information about the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area, contact them directly at:
Dean Creek Wildlife Area
63538 Boat Basin Drive
Charleston, OR 97420
Or visit the viewing area page on Oregon’s Department of Fish & Wildlife website here.
Web cam for Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area
In addition, a Web cam of the viewing area is provided by Loon Lake RV Campground located near Reedsport Oregon. Current weather conditions are listed along with photographs that are changed periodically throughout the day. Visit the Web cam here.
About the Town of Reedsport
Reedsport Oregon has a population of nearly 4,900 and is home to numerous restaurants and shopping areas, a golf course and other attractions. The Umpqua Discovery Center and the office for the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area are also located in Reedsport. With beaches, rivers, sand dunes, and forests nearby, recreational activities in the Reedsport area include camping, fishing, crabbing, clam digging, and riding off-highway vehicles in the dunes. The area also hosts several events and festivals each year such as the annual Ocean Festival, Dune Fest, Smith River Country Fair, and Salmon Derby. For more information about Reedsport Oregon, visit their website here.
The Oregon coast is home to a large number and variety of wildlife, but elk can often be difficult to find due to their preference for remote mountain locations. Dean Creek viewing area makes it easy to get a look at these majestic animals and learn more about them and their habitats.