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Ghost Forests and Agate Beds Abound on Oregon Coast

Published 01/30/2017 at 6:29 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

ghost forest stumps near Newport this weekend

(Seal Rock, Oregon) – The central Oregon coast is seeing a lot of old, old faces pop up: older than 2,000 years old. That and a ton of agate-hunting possibilities. (Above: ghost forest stumps near Newport this weekend).

It's all because of this crazy erosion thing: the annual gutting of Oregon beaches by big waves each winter, where heavy surf takes out the sand and reveals all sorts of interesting goodies. The biggest: so-called “ghost forests,” stumps from trees anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 years old that are popping up like daisies in areas around Cannon Beach, Newport, Seal Rock and more.


Seal Rock ghost forest, Curtis St. access

This also means gobs of gravel beds opening up, as bedrock is revealed in many places and the treasure holds of agates lying beneath the sands breathe the open air once again.

This past weekend, the ancient structures were in places not often seen. There are 2,000-year-old ghost forests visible year-round at Neskowin, but the ones showing up just south of Newport and near Seal Rock are about 4,000 years old and only show up in winter. Those at Curtis St. at Seal Rock tend to show a little more often, but up the road about ten miles is Thiel Creek and Holiday Beach where they don't appear quite every winter.

Holiday Beach is behind an unmarked gravel pullover about 100 feet north of the milepost 146 marker, just south of the Newport Municipal Airport.

Ghost forests are also seen way up north near Cannon Beach, at Arch Cape and Hug Point State Park. These are remarkably ancient as well, carbon-dated at about 4,000 years old. These only show up every few years.

Seaside geologist Tom Horning found them in these areas recently as well as other spots, including a chunk of acreage where a coffee shop now stands, which is where a history center for the north Oregon coast once sat.

“We have stumps on bedrock beneath the beaches at Hug Point and Arch Cape,” Horning said. “Only the roots remain, the stumps have been abraded by the waves and gravel. I have seen spruce and cedar. Some of the stumps are from the 3600-year-old brief high-stand of the 'Hypsothermal Event,' caused by some warm climate that pulled back after a brief stint. Others are exhumed from the 80,000 yr old terrace and remain glued to the beach platform. We have more drowned forests behind the beaches and dunes of Clatsop Plains, including near our old Natural History Center at the north end of Seaside.”

How these ghost forests came to be is a bit up for debate. It was either a massive quake (like the one in 1700 and the one we're expecting again) that dropped the earth rather suddenly, or it was a slower change in landscape that took a few decades. In either case, the eventual outcome is known: these stands of trees were buried by sand and / or sediment, cut off from the decaying effects of oxygen, and preserved beneath the sands for thousands of years. Photos of Oregon Coast Ghost Forest Stumps: Where Else to Find Them

Scientific communities around Oregon differ about how the land dropped, whether it was abruptly by a quake that sent the ground diving ten feet or more, or if it was a slower creep of sand and changing water levels that enveloped the forests.

On the central Oregon coast this weekend, bedrock was showing at the Curtis St. access of Seal Rock, bringing out droves of agate hunters. As Horning pointed out, Arch Cape and Hug Point are also showing bedrock, which likely means gravel beds and thus agates will abound there as well. This can change drastically from day to day, however, with sand levels changing constantly.

Other places to keep an eye out for prime agate hunting include Moolack Beach and Beverly Beach at Newport, parts of Lincoln City, Oceanside, northern Manzanita, and Bob Creek near Yachats.

More places to look for ghost forests include Moolack Beach, Tillicum Beach near Yachats and Cape Lookout State Park near Oceanside. Where to stay for this - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tour

Video: gravel beds and agate hunters on Sunday at Seal Rock.

Gravel Beds Galore near Seal Rock, Oregon Coast

Near Newport, #OregonCoast Yesterday: agate hunting opps abound. This is Seal Rock, northern end, at Curtis Street. Also gobs of ghost forests there and at Thiel Creek (forests some 4,000 years old).

Posted by Newport, Oregon Coast on Monday, January 30, 2017


Thiel Creek, near Newport


Thiel Creek, near Newport

Thiel Creek, near Newport

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