There’s no guarantee you’ll see elk at the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area, but if you look carefully chances are good you will at least glimpse some in the distance. If you’re lucky, like the day my husband and I visited in June, you’ll see a herd at close range.
Even when elk are absent, it’s a lovely drive along the Umpqua River to reach the elk lands. And a generous smattering of informative posters available at both ends of the parking area offer an outdoor learning experience. Peek-a-boo question and answer boards contain elk and waterfowl trivia, and there is even a life-size elk drawing you can pose with to include in your photo journal of the site.
West viewing area
We initially bypassed the more popular viewing spot by the entrance and beelined to the far end of the lot. Offering several outdoor seating options, from here we enjoyed the head elk and his harem, as well as a trickling stream and lush marshlands hosting smaller wildlife. Binoculars are a plus when visiting this piece of conveniently accessible wilderness!
While stopped at the bench nearest the mixed herd, another couple joined us. When they commented that the fellow before us must be an outcast, I explained it was actually the opposite. We were observing the “winner” amongst the males – who, not surprisingly, also sported the most impressive rack. My husband pointed out he stood guard over his ladies and their young, not only to protect them from predators, but also (and perhaps mainly) to keep away the less virile bucks who might challenge him.
Along the walkway, benches are dispersed at intervals of 50 to 225 steps. Flat sidewalk, easy visibility of the next beach ahead, fresh air, and scenery speckled with roving beasts caused me to walk farther than I otherwise would have. I especially appreciate venues that encourage additional walking!
Near the Interpretive Center, a group of juvie males with velvety antlers lounged and grazed, and one even drank from the stream adjacent the sidewalk. After watching their antics, the Interpretive Center answered questions about elk and the surrounding wetlands.