It is a joy to see an Oregon elk in the wild. Unfortunately, you probably won't. They are shy animals and like to keep away from human activity. They seldom venture too far into an open area away from the shelter of the forest. The exception is on game refuges where they have become more accustomed to seeing two-legged mammals.
A bull elk can weigh as much 1,200 pounds and their antlers can have six or seven points. Mating season is in the fall and the calves are born around the first part of June. The bulls shed their horns in March and April. It only takes four months for them to grow a new set.Oregon has several game preserves where you can go to see these majestic animals. All of them are on the western side of the Cascade Range. These are Roosevelt Elk. The elk on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains are Rocky Mountain Elk. Sometimes you will see both in the Cascades.
The Dean Creek Reserve is near Reedsport on the Oregon Coast. It is composed of over one thousand acres of woodland, protected pastures, and wetlands. There are three viewing areas with spotting scopes and there is the Hinsdale Interpretive Center where you can learn more about the elk, their habits, and their management.
One of the best times to view the elk is after the middle of June when the mothers have taken their calves to the pastures. You are more likely to see them if you go early in the morning or late afternoon.
To get there from Reedsport, travel three miles east on Highway 38.
Tucked away in the northeast corner of Oregon is the Jewell Wildlife Refuge. During the winter there can be as many as 200 elk on the refuge. It is a safe haven for them and supplies them with nutritious winter food. They don't have to stay there. They come because they know there is food and they feel safe.
There are paved parking areas and four viewing areas. Probably the best way to see the herds is to volunteer to help feed them in the winter. You can actually ride the hay wagon and help feed the herds. Call (503) 755-2264.
To get there take Highway 26 either from Portland or the coast and turn off at the Jewell Junction onto Highway 202.
Just 12 miles from Corvallis is the Finley National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge has a herd of approximately 120 elk. They tend to hug the edges of the woodlands so you may or may not see them while driving through. There is plenty of other wildlife to see however. You might just see a bobcat. The refuge was originally developed for Dusty Geese and other waterfowl and is very popular for bird watching.
To get there, see the map below.
During the winter months you can take a horse-drawn wagon to the Rocky Mountain Elk feeding area. T & T Horsemanship have been providing these tours for 22 years. They can get you to within 300 feet of these beautiful animals. Their wagon even has a wheelchair lift. You can usually view 100 to 150 elk.
T & T Horsemanship is located in eastern Oregon at North Powder between La Grande and Baker City. From Highway 84 at North Powder travel west on North Powder River Lane just eight miles. For up-to-date information call (541) 856-3356 or (541) 519-7234 before you go.