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Places Where Things Explode on the Oregon Coast

Published 06/01/2010
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

south jetty of the Columbia River, at Fort Stevens State Park

(Oregon Coast) – There are food snobs. There are wine snobs. There are those that hold certain kinds of cinema in high regard and clearly look down their noses at other types of film. (Above: the south jetty of the Columbia River, at Fort Stevens State Park).

And then there are those who know what is “cool” and “hip” in the natural world on Oregon's coast. Yes, that’s right, there are strict standards for some for what is awesome in the way of beaches.

One of these standards, among the beachy glitterati, is spots with the wildest, most explosive wave action. Where can you get an oceanic eyeful?

Most of these really cool spots exist on the central coast, where there are more rocky shelves to make the waves explode and go seriously bonkers. But there are a handful on the north coast – although all take finding them at the right conditions.

Starting at the north end, the jetties near Astoria and at Nehalem Bay will provide plenty of pummeling, of course. The ocean eternally smacks against these structures with massive force – these jetties and those at Depoe Bay, Newport’s Yaquina Bay and at Florence’s Siuslaw River.

Then, near Cannon Beach, things start to get a little more interesting. Just south of town, beneath one of the big overlooks, there’s Silver Point, where a reef right next to a sizable rock just offshore creates unusual some wave action. Given the right conditions, it’ll create tall, somewhat skinny waves in in really curious formations that are bit like blobs bouncing up and down in the surf. Sometimes, this wave action will scurry northward instead of coming into shore like normal waves, resembling some mysterious creature zipping up and down the breakers.

Short Sand Beach and Hug Point are two other spots where waves can make an impression. Then, travel south some 40 or so miles from Manzanita to Oceanside, and you’ll find the secret cove just through the tunnel, on the other side of the cliff known as Maxwell Point. Here, the landscape resembles an old Star Trek episode. At the end of this stretch of clandestine beach are a set of seastacks - one of which used to be an arch, but is now broken in two to form separate rocky slabs in the surf.

Here, as well as at the tip of Maxwell Point, monster waves arching over and splashing everything are often the norm.

You’ll find more stunning waves around the cliffs of Cape Kiwanda, 25 miles south of Oceanside.

An hour or so south of Pacific City and the cape, the area just north and south of Depoe Bay gets really rocky. Big breakers are a constant here as well, especially around Boiler Bay and the headland immediately to the south of it. Great behemoths can erupt as the Pacific slams these ledges with even a bit of stormy force.

Even more can be seen with regularity at Depoe Bay, particularly along the seawall. There lurks the town’s spouting horn: a small chasm in the rocks which channels wave energy into one gigantic upward gush. Few things are more surreal than having to use your windshield wipers to get rid of a sudden wash of sea water, as this spout sprays quite a distance, given the right conditions. It can shoot about 30, 40 feet into the air as well.

Down just south of Newport, major breakers can wallop Seal Rock in stormier conditions, but it doesn’t take much to make for oceanic drama at Yachats, a 25-minute drive from Newport. A few miles of purely basalt shoreline set the stage for a constant stream of monsters to come racing in. A variety of little splits in the rock create lots of places where the waves get squished and then gush upward, or at least they get squeezed in such a way as to create taller chunks of distorted ocean that tumble in and then swat the jagged rocks in a fiery kind of end.

In Yachats, it doesn’t take much to make the waves do wild things. It’s a fairly constant, free show.

Several miles south of town, right at the line between Lane and Lincoln counties, Cook’s Chasm is a larger and more powerful version of the spouting horn at Depoe Bay to the north, where large waves equal a somewhat surreal detonation of energy. It hisses and sprays, if the waves are big enough, shooting outward in a way that resembles a white version of the Smoke Monster from the show LOST.

This whole area around the county line down to several miles north of Florence is inhabited by numerous rocky ledges that create monstrous displays on a regular basis. Where to stay in this area - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours


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