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One Oregon Coast Spot Has a Wild and a Calm Face

Published 07/29/2011


(Rockaway Beach, Oregon) – It's a bit of living history you can bounce around on – nearly 100 years old (although you technically shouldn’t be walking on it at all).

The south jetty of the Nehalem Bay, at Rockaway Beach's Manhattan Beach, is a cozy, calm and yet paradoxically dramatic spot on the Oregon coast. It’s also off the beaten path enough that you won’t find many others there, quite often leaving the beach to just you as the lone inhabitant.


It all starts at the parking lot – if you can find it. Indeed, as you reach the northern end of Rockaway and head into that mass of trees that encircles the inner area of Nehalem Bay, there’s a huge sign that says Manhattan Beach. But even from this access point, it’s a little hard to find. It’s easy to get lost in the neighborhood of homes here.

The parking lot is an unassuming gravel patch, sort of stuck in a kind of corner at the bend of a roadway. The dunes here continually spill over onto the parking area, perhaps in an attempt to hide it from the public. It’s entirely possible this beach wants to be left alone.


You have to walk a bit further to get to the beach, and often over an intense labyrinth of huge driftwood that dominate the landscape. They sometimes don’t want you to pass, either, providing numerous obstacles.

Then the ocean appears, and that long stretch of boulders that comprises the jetty at Nehalem Bay.


This, too, is a curious structure in some ways. The ocean can be raging and in a crazed mood, slamming even harder against the jetty on its rocky fingers that jut out into the sea.

But look into the bay mouth, on the other side of the jetty, and it’s paradoxically quite calm.

All those driftwood piles make for plenty of building possibilities. Would-be architects seem to abound here, with humans having created and left behind some magnificent little temporary shelters. Many look quite ingenious.

Look down to the south and you’ll see the iconic Twin Rocks – about seven miles away. These structures change shape all the time, depending on your angle. From this vantage point, so many miles to the north, they look thinner, almost squished. They’re rather comically reminiscent of the opening credits of a spaghetti western flick, where the picture is strangely elongated.


The south jetty here was constructed in 1916 and the north jetty in 1918. The southern one is 4,950 feet long, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, and the north jetty is 3,890 feet.

They went under some restoration in 1981 and ’82, when the Corps and its contractors put more than 347,000 tons of rock into the tips of the jetties. Over the first few decades, lots of chunks of it were periodically taken away by underwater currents and big waves.

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