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Covering 160 miles of Oregon coast
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Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe
Bay, Newport, Wadport, Yachats & Florence.
Wonders of Oregon Beaches Make Freaky History Lesson
By Andre’ Hagestedt
stacks- like these at Oceanside - are often the remains of an
– The fun and frivolity of Oregon’s coast goes deeper
than you know – quite literally. Beneath the sands, behind
the sea stacks and deep inside the cliffs, what you see on the coast
has quite the freaky history.
years ago, the coastline was actually somewhere about Silver Creek
Falls, about 100 miles inland. About that time, the fissure beneath
the Earth that now produces the fun of Yellowstone National Park
was located around what is now the Oregon/Idaho border (tectonic
plates beneath us move all the time, and have moved that far in
the last 65 million years).
Back then, that
opening in the crust caused enormous, cataclysmic eruptions the
likes we can’t even imagine seeing now. Walls of scorching
lava, hundreds of feet high, marched across and scoured the landscape
all the way to the sea, where they would end their horrendous, fiery
journey in a fit of steam.
faultlines are still visible at Seal Rock
This is the
cause of many of the basalt structures and headlands you see today
on the coast. Often, sea stacks are the remnants of a headland that
once stretched out into the sea, but was eroded over time. In some
cases, some scructures were created on the sea floor, then emerged
from the water as the land throughout the millennia. Many different
actions went into each one, and it differs depending on which structure
you’re talking about.
But in the end,
it’s the mix of rock structure, landscape and sea that has
the most enduring fascination and enchanting effect on us. The ocean
shores are so completely different than the rest of the world we
live in – and for good reason. There are so many more different,
complex processes going on here that constantly create change in
this fluid, sometimes weird environment.
a few examples you may not know about.
Bay’s Spouting Horn
a unique feature to Depoe Bay that few - if any - cities on the
Oregon Coast have. No other coastal town has a spouting horn right
in the middle of downtown, anyway. Here, there are two views of
this magnificent monster from the depths. One, during a spring day
full of lots of breaker action, you can see the spouting horn in
full force. It shoots sea water high into the sky with tremendous
force. Watch out if you're driving by: it's certainly a strange
and slightly silly experience to find yourself having to use your
windshield wipers because a chunk of ocean water just sprayed all
over your car.
In fact, businesses across the way, such as the
Pacific Crown Inn, find they have to wash their vehicles quite frequently
because of the constant exposure to salt water flying through the
this other shot, during a calmer day, you see the culprit. A large
fissure in the basalt rock here compacts the waves and their immense
energy into one huge aerial wallop - something akin to our own version
of Old Faithful (except that it's very random and dependent upon
certain tidal conditions).
Much of the Depoe Bay area was created by what is
called “pillow basalt.” Basalt rock is formed by lava
cooling off, solidifying into this kind of black rock. Pillow basalt
is the softer edged, slightly roundish rock, made when lava hits
the water and steams itself into these smoother shapes.
like this one and those around Cape Perpetua south of Yachats, were
formed by cracks in the rocks that were eroded away over the centuries
into chasms or tube-like structures, which compress the wave action
in just the right way as to cause it shoot upwards.
Beach, by Oceanside
of the state's most enthralling hidden spots lies right next to
Oceanside, just west of Tillamook. Look for Radar Rd. along the
back road between Oceanside and Cape Meares, and you'll find the
refurbished entrance to this stunning beach.
Until recently, the way down here was precarious
and slippery, causing many injuries. But locals got together and
created this "stairway of 1000 steps."
you'll find the bulbous blob at the tide line, resembling the sea
stack at Neskowin to the south. Wander here a bit longer, and you
may see the waterfall coming from the side of the cliff which hosts
the lighthouse. Legends abound here. It's said that at extreme low
tides, there is yet another tunnel visible (like the one through
the cliff in Oceanside). One version of the legend says there may
be two tunnels here.
Spot Without A Name
south of the county lines between Lane
and Lincoln counties, a ways south of Yachats, sits a beach
spot with no name. The parking lot gives way to a path down to this
beach with two personalities: one is a sandy, slightly stony crescent,
the other a labyrinth of basalt structures.
Where the two parts meet, a small basalt arch stretches
over and into the sand. Black, giant, jagged rocky slabs contain
numerous fissures or cracks, where the tide can do especially spectacular
things (you don't want to be around them at these times, however).
Huge logs lie all about, testifying to the dangerous power of the
waters here. Or, wander up the secret path overlooking the beach
and watch it all from above. You may even catch sight of ancient
Native American shell middens here, embedded in the sides of the
Embedded in the Rocks
the summer of 2003, I found this intriguing object embedded in the
rock while wandering the hard-to-traverse rocky chunks of a hidden
beach spot around Oswald West State
Park (at the end of Falcon Cove Road).
Having seen the fossilized remnants of trees embedded
deep in the basalt caves at Silver Creek State Park, I wondered
if this was animal or vegetable. Luckily, one of the Oregon Coast's
foremost experts on fossils happens to be our columnist. Guy DiTorrice
clued me in.
He told me it
was a "rock scallop, seen from the interior, with the hinge
line on the left side. Take a wire brush to it and you'll see the
high-sheen polish. The backside (still embedded) will be ruffled
design, usually pocked with worm- and clam-drilled holes."
what is a "rock scallop?" I asked. I wondered if this
had something to do with that old B-52's song, "Rock Lobster?"
He said they are non-swimming scallops that attach themselves to
rocks near the shore. He added the scallop is the logo shape used
by Shell Oil Co.
The next logical question then is: how old might
this fossil be? Guy said the brownish rock color indicates Astoria
Sandstone, which "could be as young as 12 million years old,
and as old as 17 million."
If that's not cool enough, Guy provided some interesting
tips about their modern-day descendants. "They are great eating,
have much larger muscles (the meat) than the commercially-harvested
swimming scallop cousins."
known as "Oregon Fossil Guy," leading tours around Central
Coast beaches to show you how to find all kinds of fossils. www.OregonFossilGuy.com