It’s a short but strenuous hike through a rugged coastal forest of towering trees. You hear the crashing waves echo off the cliffside hundreds of feet below as you step over exposed tree roots and find your way to the clearing. And there it stands before you: the mysterious Octopus Tree – its massive limbs growing like tentacles from the tree’s base.
A plaque placed by the Friends of Cape Meares Lighthouse marks this culturally significant site, and a wooden fence surrounds the 50-foot base of the tree to deter tree climbers.
It’s anyone’s guess how this giant Sitka spruce got its unusual shape. Urban legend and local historians believe it was a sacred tree set forth by the area’s original inhabitants. The story goes that these coastal Native American tribes would hand pick special trees to serve as a ceremonial site. The branches were likely forced into a horizontal position while they were still young and flexible, and then once they were ready each was released to grow vertically like 100-foot tentacles slithering away from the body of an inverted Octopus.
While determining the age of the tree would require cutting it down, it’s estimated to be anywhere from 250-300 years old. Some historians say these types of ceremonial trees were used to hold objects such as canoes – or even corpses – for ritualistic purposes.
However the tree came to get its unusual candelabra shape, it is a sight to behold from every angle. If you’re in the area, it is well worth a stop to see this modern wonder that was likely once a revered place for tribal elders to gather and perform ceremonies.
And don’t forget to stop by the scenic viewpoint a few hundred feet from the tree, where you can often spot whales from high above the surf. It’s no wonder that Native American Tribes picked this majestic spot to serve as a sacred ceremonial location.