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Unusual Gearhart Facts Part 2: Nature Surprises, Secret Tips of N. Oregon Coast

Published 03/01/2018 at 4:45 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Unusual Gearhart Facts Part 2: Nature Surprises, Secret Tips of N. Oregon Coast

(Gearhart, Oregon) – Still more wild, wacky secrets and surprises to give away: the tiny town of Gearhart has enough tasty tidbits of unusual facts you really need two articles to publish the whole bundle. Part I about this upscale north Oregon coast village dealt with the prickly, ouch-inducing plants you might encounter, the town’s relation to a bad horror movie and to a famed culinary pioneer, and some wonders of nature. See Odd and Unknown Facts of Gearhart, Oregon Coast Part I: Bad Film, Culinary Heritage to Weird Science.

Part two digs a tiny bit deeper, and perhaps into more surprising territory. There's a hidden viewpoint no one seems to know about (for some reason), a weird fact about the dunes here, and some positively delightful and yet odd science about the river that is the border between Gearhart and Seaside.

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Alien Invasion of Gearhart. Those sandy dunes you now see were not here a century ago. Much of the geology and geography of a large part of the north Oregon coast changed just after the turn of the 20th century. Beaches got wider because of a big change at the Columbia River, then invasive plant species were brought in which took over and caused even more sand buildup. The shoreline has expanded around 2000 feet westward in a century. Essentially, all of that dune grass around you that's so scenic is technically invasive species. There's more on that in this article on the Alien Invasion of the North Coast.

Seaside is essentially experiencing the same thing with the massive dune buildup, but the town shaves off layers of sand periodically to keep the Promenade from getting overrun.

Hidden Viewpoint. Take N. Holladay Dr. as you're coming into Seaside from the north and within a minute you'll be at the high school. There, across the street, sits a viewpoint and park that is inexplicably unknown and not even part of any map. It's called Necanicum Estuary Park, and it's a simple parking lot with a viewing platform, some river access, and great views of the river as it rolls out to sea. The park is known as a hotspot for bird watchers.

The river is popular for all sorts of activities like boating, crabbing and fishing (although the sand bar at its mouth is not navigable).

Unusual River Commotion. Every now and then in September (not every year), hordes of baitfish like anchovies try to head upstream at the Necanicum in a massive feeding frenzy on nutrients coming down the waterway. This, in turn, creates other wild feeding frenzies with pelicans and other birds flocking like crazy here to chomp on those fish. It's a wild sight. (Photo above by Seaside Aquarium).

If there's a lot of baitfish in the area, Humpback whales are likely making quite a show, usually from Cannon Beach through to the Columbia River at Astoria.

Seaside's Wild Little Sand Dollar Secret. On both the Gearhart and Seaside side of the Necanicum is a bit of a weird but heavily guarded secret: there are the most unbroken sand dollars on this beach than anywhere else on the Oregon coast. A combination of the terrain just beneath the breakers and the nutrients coming here from this river and the Columbia have created ideal conditions for sand dollars to thrive. In the quarter-mile stretch between the parking lot and the river, as well as on the Gearhart side, certain times of the year and certain tidal conditions mean an explosion of sand dollars. It’s truly amazing.

Then, thanks to the fact the area is barely used by humans (and those there don't usually even notice), they go untouched. Thus, tons of unbroken sand dollars for you to pick to your heart's delight. Where to stay in this area - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours

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