Photo courtesy of Denis LeBlanc

Just outside of Reedsport, Oregon, there is a series of wide meadows along the Umpqua River that form a year-round environment for a herd of about 100 Roosevelt elk (Cervus canadensis roosevelti). Jointly managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Federal Bureau of Land Management, this area provides a marvelous opportunity to safely view Oregon’s largest land mammal from a very close vantage point. These animals are the largest of the four subspecies of elk in North America and are found along the Pacific coast from northern California to Alaska.

The first stop should be at the O. H. Hinsdale interpretive center to get some background on these elegant animals. This is often a good viewing area for the elk, but if there aren’t many in sight, there are several favorite spots east and west of the center where the herd often visits. Viewing elk closely might require pulling over on a narrow shoulder of the highway.

Single bulls with smaller antler racks are often spotted from the road. The bulk of the herd will be guarded by a few very large males with massive antlers who are the dominant members of this community. Watching the interactions in the herd is fascinating, and this is a great opportunity to get photos of wild animals in their natural surroundings, an experience more like Yellowstone National Park than the coast of Oregon.