When the name of Tillamook is mentioned, what comes to your mind? Chances are that at least the second (or maybe even the first) thing would be your dairy of choice. Yogurt, cheese, ice-cream… you name it. Tillamook the Dairylands, as it is called, is home to Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA), which celebrated its 100-year jubilee in 2009.
Located in the northern part of the Oregon Coast 74 miles west of Portland, the Tillamook City is the center of the namesake county, its largest city, business and administrative center, housing Tillamook County government, main Post Office, the main branch of the Tillamook County Library, Tillamook County General Hospital, and Tillamook Bay Community College.
There is no consensus regarding the origins of the name “Tillamook”. According to one opinion, it is derived from the Indian “the many peoples of the Nehelim”, according to the other opinion “Tillamook” means “Land of Many Waters”. Such a discrepancy may be attributed to the misspelling in the older texts. At that, there is no doubt, that the latter interpretation (“Land of Many Waters”) fits the place well, considering the five rivers (Tillamook, Trask, Wilson, Kilchis, and the Miami), five bays and the Pacific Ocean nearby.
Before the first settlers arrived, the area was occupied by the Tillamook Indians, the most southern branch of the Coast Salish. They were geographically separated from their northern relatives by tribes of Chinookan peoples who occupied the territory between them. Both culture and language of the southern Salish differed considerably from that of their northern peers, probably due to the influence of the north Californian tribes.
The beginning of the known Tillamook story dates back to August 1788, when Captain Robert Gray and his sloop “Lady Washington” anchored in Tillamook Bay. That also happened to be the first landing on the Oregon Coast. The first settlers, however, did not arrive until 1851, when Joseph Champion made his home in a hollow tree, which he proudly called his “castle.” People kept on coming – first individual settlers, then whole families. The population grew and formally became Tillamook County on December 15th, 1853.
The climate and the nature with its water sources and green grass, so beloved by the cows, was ideal for dairy farming. The transportation situation, however, was far from ideal. For those purposes, the community built the Morning Star ship in 1854 to make sure that the dairy products reach the market. The Morning Star is now the TCCA logo, seen on all its dairy products.
In 1861, Thomas Stillwell purchased land and opened the first store there. A town started growing around it – the town which would soon become the city of Tillamook. In 1866, the first post office was opened, and the town permanently acquired its current name. In 1873, Tillamook became the county seat, with the first public building, a jail, constructed the same year.
Tillamook was incorporate as a city in 1891. A few years later the first County Courthouse and City Hall were constructed.
Today’s City Hall occupies the building of the former Tillamook Post Office listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Climate-wise, the Tillamook City is squeezed between the Mediterranean and the oceanic climates. The proximity of the ocean brings temperature fluctuations throughout the year to the minimum. Snow is rare, but floods are in abundance. Summers here are usually short and mild, with the driest seasons falling in July and August.
Tillamook the Dairylands has had dairy farms as the main source of the region’s prosperity for many years, with the Tillamook Cheese Factory being one of the main touristic destinations for over 1 million visitors every year.
The lumber industry was prominent in the past, and according to some experts is ready to stage a comeback in the coming years. The proximity of the ocean beaches makes tourism one of the contributors of the local economy, as many of those, who prefer extended Pacific coast vacations, often have their second residence in Tillamook.
There is no doubt, that the Tillamook City is in the middle of a renaissance period, with the major revitalizing project undertaken by the Tillamook Urban Renewal Agency. It involves renovation of the downtown, refurbishing of old buildings and construction of new ones. The significant contribution comes from the local businesses and citizens, who helped build a new branch of the County Library and a new campus for Tillamook Bay Community College. Tillamook businesses are also investing heavily in the city renovation in general.
Things to Do & See
Tillamook Cheese Factory
If you happen to pass by and have time for only one Tillamook attraction – this is the one!
Located at US 101 North, Tillamook Cheese Factory if the original cheese production facility of the Creamery Association. The facility has a Visitor’s Center, where one can learn about dairy processing. Theory will be paired with a live observation of an actual production floor through the viewing window (tours to the production floor were however discontinued for health and sanitary reasons).
The tours are free and self-guided.
And of course, all that goodness (cheese, ice-cream, etc.) can be sampled. The Creamery Café offers breakfast and lunch, accompanied by famous Tillamook desserts, such as Tillamook Fudge or extra creamy ice cream.
175 Highway 101 North, Tillamook, OR 97141
Tillamook County Pioneer Museum
The museum building is a landmark in its own right. It was once the Tillamook County Courthouse. Now it has a different role – collecting, preserving and displaying the history of the area in over 35,000 items and 10,000 photographs.
With two libraries dedicated to the County history, Tillamook County Pioneer Museum is the place for those interested in the history of Tillamook and its surroundings.
2106 Second St, Tillamook, OR 97141
Latimer Quilt & Textile Center
The Center defines its mission as to “preserve, promote, display and facilitate the creation of and provide education about the textile arts.” An abandoned schoolhouse in the past, the now restored building houses a variety of displays of both antique and present-day quilts, as well as clothing pieces and textile tools.
Additionally, the Center holds demonstrations in weaving, spinning, and other textile arts; houses an extensive research library, and has a gift shop, where visitors can purchase hand-made items, books, and fabrics.
2105 Wilson River Loop Rd., Tillamook, OR 97141
Tillamook Air Museum
The Tillamook Air Museum is located just south of the city, in the Port of Tillamook Bay. Those interested in the history of aviation will find an Exhibit Hall with rare wartime and aviation-related artifacts, in addition to over 15 aircraft. The building of the museum was once a part of Naval Air Station Tillamook.
6030 Hangar Rd Tillamook, OR 97141
Parks and Other Outdoors
The Tillamook area is well-known for its great outdoors, with numerous parks, forests, and rivers. Tillamook parks can offer entertainment for every taste. The by no means exhaustive list includes:
- Pioneer Park
- Carnahan Park
- Goodspeed Park
- Hoquarton Interpretive Trail
- Dean Memorial Wayside Park
- Coatsville Park
- Sue H. Elmore Park
The astonishing number of hiking trails carefully maintained in a perfect condition surround the area. Rivers, big and small, provide kayak enthusiasts with over 800 miles of navigable waters. The nearby bays are a source of unparalleled crabbing, clamming and fishing opportunities.
Tillamook Forest Center
The Tillamook State Forest is located close by and is one of the places worth visiting. Tillamook Forest Center offers learning opportunities for those who wish to learn more about the past and the present of the area, as well as to take a glimpse into the future of the Oregon forests. The learning experience is extremely accessible and enjoyable… and completely free.
Address: 45500 Wilson River Hwy., Tillamook, OR 97116
(866) 930-4646 (Toll-Free)
Tillamook | Facts
Region: North Oregon Coast • USA
Population (2016): 4,920
Area: 1.70 mile2 (4.40 km2)
Elevation: 24 ft (7 m)
GPS Coordinates: 45.458, -123.843
Zip Code: 97141
Average Winter T°: 44°F (7°C)
Average Summer T°: 58°F (14°C)
Festivals and Events
Tillamook and the surrounding area have their own fair share of annual events:
- In March, one can attend the Spring Craft Sale and enjoy the Taste of Tillamook County
- In April, the city hosts Headlight-Herald Home & Garden Show
- In May, one can enjoy the North Oregon Coast Cruise-In
- Every Saturday, June through September, an old-fashioned Downtown Farmers’ Market opens its doors
- In June, Horse Show, Dairy Parade and Festival, and Rodeo are held
- August is the month of the Tillamook County Fair
- Art in the Park takes place in September
- North Coast Seafood Festival occurs in October, just like Mayor’s Ball and Halloween Downtown
- November & December are the time of fairytale-like Holiday bazaars and Christmas celebrations