Central Oregon Coast Beaches Rich with Agates,
|Bedrock near Seal Rock is a telltale sign of agates. This rock is
17 million years old.
(Newport, Oregon) - Keep looking down while at the beach.
There's lots to see this year.
Agates abound on the central Oregon coast right now, and
some of the ghost forests are starting to peek out of the sand, along
with some extremely ancient bedrock.
Winter storm action has begun to scour enough sand that
agates are becoming plentiful in the Newport area, as sand levels get
down far enough to expose rockbeds and gravelbeds where the little treasures
That storm action has also helped reveal ancient forest
stumps about 4,000 years old, as well as rockbed that’s more than
17 million years old.
Some of these things are being found in surprising places
|Agate Beach, near Starfish Point.
Agates have been more common at Newport’s Agate Beach
in recent years after the creek moved almost a mile north of its usual
spot. “Follow the creekbed,” said Guy DiTorrice, president
of the Oregon Coast Agate Club. “They’re in the creek.”
DiTorrice said some beaches are full of them, and he’s
seen the full range of colors.
“Blues, whites, yellows, green jasper, carnalian..”
Carnalian is a reddish, orange agate.
There’s better pickins’ a ways from the main
access, however. Almost a mile north of the big access to Agate Beach
is the smaller city access, close to the bottom of Yaquina Head. There,
a large patch of rockbed has been exposed by rains. While the main access
to Agate Beach gets picked clean rather quickly, there’s hardly
a soul wandering the northern part of the beach.
Roy Emerick, manager of Starfish
Point, said water drainage coming from the cliffs – not storms
– have scoured four to five feet of sand from the bottom of the
cliff, resulting in a patch of exposed gravel and agates stretching twenty
feet out towards the sea.
“There’s not a lot of people even looking there,”
Emerick said. “There’s not much foot traffic on that beach.”
That area is most easily reached by the Lucky Gap Trail,
which has its parking lot just a tad north of the Starfish Point complex,
along Highway 101.
For newbies to agate collecting, DiTorrice has some advice.
First, look for exposed gravelbeds or rockbeds, like those
at the northern part of Agate Beach or the Curtis St. access near Seal
|The ghost forest at Neskowin.
Walk down the beach at low tides, preferably as the tide
is going out.
Look for shiny rocks.
If they’re still wet from the outgoing tide, they’re
easier to spot
Start about three hours before the lowest tide.
Strange stumps are beginning to show at some spots, as
are bedrock that’s 17 million years old.
the Curtis St. access, the bedrock being exposed may be as old as 20 million
years. It’s also the telltale sign of where to find agates. That
chunk of rock, which runs along most of the central and north coast, is
part of the Nye formation.
Also at this beach access is the slow emergence of the
mysterious ghost forests. These are stumps about 4,000 years old, the
result of being immersed in soil or sand, thus hidden from oxygen and
never decaying as wood normally does in the open air.
|Bedrock that showed at Cape Kiwanda during last year's low sand
These point to some strange, even possibly chilling natural
history of the coast.
There are only two or three of these stumps showing now,
although last year saw quite a few of these rather surreal structures.
Last year at this time, sand levels were extraordinarily
lower than usual, resulting in a bevy of ghost forest finds – including
here. They were also found at Thiel Creek (a few miles south of Newport),
Lost Creek, Moolack Beach, as well on the north coast, in places like
Hug Point, Cape Lookout, Cape Kiwanda and Arch Cape.
Meanwhile, Neskowin has a spectacular ghost forest year
There are two big theories on how these ancient forests
came to be.
One is that a massive, sudden earthquake dropped the land
as much as twenty feet, thus immersing the stand of trees in whatever
material surrounding it. There is also the possibility a tsunami followed
and lopped the trees in half or less.
The other theory is that they were slowly, over a
period of decades, surrounded by swampy conditions or waters that choked
the life out of them, and then sand slowly covered around them. There
is strong evidence of this, as geologists from the Newport office of the
state’s geological arm have discovered that Yaquina Head was a giant
sand dune at one time.
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