Crook Point, Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

Crook Point, Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

by | Nov 15, 2021

Crook Point is a prominent headland that includes 1.4 miles (2.3 km) of shoreline with sandy beaches and areas of rocky intertidal, offshore rocks, islets, and subtidal reefs with kelp beds, about 15 miles (24 km) north-northwest of Brookings and 11 miles (18 km) south of Gold Beach, Oregon. The beaches and rocky shores are part of the Ocean Shore State Recreation Area. The uplands above the beach, and the offshore rocks and islands, are a management unit within the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, one of six refuges comprising the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The refuge provides wilderness protection to 1,853 small islands, rocks, and reefs plus two headlands, totaling 371 acres (150 ha) and spanning 320 miles (516 km) of Oregon’s coastline from the California border to Tillamook Head. The Crook Point Unit was acquired in 2000 to preserve rare plants, unique geological formations, and seabird habitat. The rocks situated off Crook Point and within the Mack Reef complex support the second-largest seabird nesting area in Oregon. Mack Reef is comprised of more than 25 rocks, islands, and sea stacks that provide nesting habitat for more than 211,000 seabirds including 11 of the 13 seabird species in Oregon. Approximately 43% of the Oregon breeding population of Leach’s storm petrels are found here, as well as double-crested cormorants, pelagic cormorants, pigeon guillemots, tufted puffins, and western gulls. The area is also a habitat for peregrine falcons and brown pelicans. Marine mammals that use the area include harbor seals, and California and Steller sea lions. The rocky intertidal habitats support a diverse array of invertebrates and marine algae including a kelp bed of 300 acres (121 ha) with mostly bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana). The Crook Point headland is closed to public use, but access is a walk of 2 miles (3.2 km) along the beach from Pistol River State Scenic Viewpoint. Crook Point was named after General George R. Crook who was a career U.S. Army officer mostly noted for his distinguished service during the Indian Wars and the American Civil War.

George Crook was assigned to the 4th U.S. infantry in 1852-1861, as a brevet second lieutenant serving in Oregon and northern California. In 1853, he was sent to Fort Lane on the Rogue River in southern Oregon to alternately protect or fight against several Native American tribes during a series of armed conflicts between the U.S. Army, local militias and volunteers, and the Native American tribes in the Rogue River Valley. The main period of hostile conflict occurred from 1855–1856, but there were numerous skirmishes, earlier and later, between Euro-American settlers and Native Americans over territory and resources. Crook was assigned the task of moving several small bands from the Rogue River Valley to a reservation in the Yamill Valley. White settlement had accelerated in southern Oregon following the discovery of gold in the region in 1850, and clashes between Takelma, Latgawa, Shasta, and Athapaskan people and gold miners and white settlers were frequent. Violence accelerated in the late summer of 1853 resulting in what became known as the Table Rock Treaty, which established the first reservation in the Pacific Northwest, situated along the north side of the Rogue River. During 1854 and the first months of 1855, the officers at Fort Lane attempted to keep the peace in southern Oregon. In the fall of 1855, tensions exploded following the destruction of a Native village and the massacre of its inhabitants by a citizen militia. Under the leadership of local chiefs Tecumtum, Cholcultah and Lumpe, many Natives proceeded down the Rogue River, burning cabins and killing white settlers. Under pressure from Oregon citizens and the territorial government, the soldiers at Fort Lane were ordered to round up the Natives in southwest Oregon for removal to a reservation in northern Oregon. During the winter and spring of 1855-1856, the U.S. Army and federal Indian agents used Fort Lane and Fort Orford to prosecute this final phase of the Rogue River Wars. Native people were first confined to the military reservations after either surrendering or being captured in battle. Beginning in January 1856, the military marched hundreds of people from Fort Lane over the Oregon California Trail to Grand Ronde or shipped them by steamer from Fort Orford to the Coast Reservation. George Crook went on to serve in the Union Army during the American Civil War and had a prominent role in several major campaigns. At the end of the Civil War, Crook was promoted to lieutenant colonel and returned to the Pacific Northwest to serve with the 23rd Infantry on frontier duty. In 1867, he was appointed head of the Department of the Columbia, a major command of the U.S. Army during the 19th century.

The treaties negotiated in 1853 with the western Oregon tribes stipulated that a permanent reservation called the Coast Reservation would be set aside for them. In exchange, the tribes would cede their lands to the United States. The principal tribes that signed the treaties were the Umpquas, Athapaskans, Kalapuyans, Molalas, Shastas, and Chinookans. The federal government meant for the Coast Reservation to be the sole permanent reservation in western Oregon for the native peoples of the Willamette Valley, southwestern Oregon, and the coast. In the spring of 1855, when the Rogue River Wars erupted in southwestern Oregon, white settlers and miners sought to permanently remove Natives from the region, and the tribes sought to defend their land from encroachment. On November 9, 1855, President Franklin Pierce signed the executive order establishing the Coast Reservation, with 1.1 million acres (445,155 ha) stretching from Cape Lookout to the mouth of the Siltcoos River, and the eastern boundary was roughly the summit of the Oregon Coast Range. Tribes that surrendered or were captured were removed first to temporary reservations established while the U.S. Army built the facilities for the permanent reservation. In the summer of 1856, boats transported two large groups of Natives from Port Orford to Portland and then to the Yamhill Valley. Another group was marched overland to the Siletz River in the Coast Reservation, and over the next 20 years, all 27 of the western Oregon tribes were relocated to the Coast Reservation. However, beginning soon after it was established, the Coast Reservation was incrementally reduced in size by several congressional and presidential acts. On June 30, 1857, a presidential executive order created the Grand Ronde Reservation, with 69,120 acres (27,972 ha), which separated the region around the Yamhill Valley from the Coast Reservation. On December 21, 1865, two large sections of land were removed in the central and southern portions of the Coast Reservation. On March 3, 1875, two additional coastal sections were removed, including the Alsea and Salmon River subagencies. The Coast Reservation ceased to exist and all that remains are the present-day Siletz with 3,745 acres (1,516 ha), and Grand Ronde reservations with a combined total of 72,865 acres (29,488 ha), about 7% of the original size. Read more here and here. Explore more of Crook Point here:

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