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Four-Thousand-Year-Old Ghost Forests Appearing on Oregon Coast
(Newport, Oregon) – Sand levels on the central Oregon coast seem to be sinking fairly quickly this winter, thanks to the annual scouring of sand that happens with storm season. It's resulted in some gravel beds showing up already in some spots – a good sign for agate hunters – as well as the occurrence of puzzling, slightly eerie and twisted shapes in the sand known as “ghost forests.”
Ghost forest stumps are the remnants of ancient trees a few thousand years old. They've popped up just north of Seal Rock already, what appears to be rather early in the year – if they show up at all. These are revealed when sand levels get quite low. This area, about a mile north of Seal Rock (look for Curtis Street), is already showing some signs of bedrock as well as gravel beds, also making it possibly good for agates.
These are ghost forests, like the ones that sometimes appear just north of Newport at Moolack Beach, believed to be around 4,000 years old. Others found around the coast, including those at Neskowin, are 2,000 years old. They initially look like odd rock structures, but they are the remnant of a forest that was engulfed by sand and thus preserved because they were kept away from the decomposing effects of oxygen.
The main theory is that sand and mud slowly smothered the trees over a period of years or decades. Another theory is that the stand of trees was covered abruptly by a cataclysmic event such as a massive earthquake or tsunami.
These stumps are often in odd, octopus-like shapes, but at one time they looked more like actual stumps – like those at Neskowin. These stumps at Seal Rock and at Moolack were sawed off by early settlers in the area, who did not realized their value in terms of geologic history.
At Moolack Beach, more bedrock appears to be showing there, as well as gravel beds. It's entirely possible the ghost forest stumps there are not far behind. This could likely mean nice hunting for agates, but the tides have been dangerously large and unruly lately, so you'll have to wait until this subsides to even set foot on this beach.
Above: Moolack Beach and its gravel beds this week.
Some gravel beds seem to be revealing themselves in parts of Lincoln City as well, such as the SW 35th St. access.
Other ghost forests around 4,000 years old sometimes show up just south of Cannon Beach and in Arch Cape, on the north Oregon coast, but so far there are no reports of this.
The ghost forests at Neskowin appear year-round.
There has been plenty of heavy surf action in recent weeks so it's a good idea to keep an eye on your favorite beach and see how it's changed, or if gravel beds have started to appear if you're interested in agate hunting.
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