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A Natural Maker of Monsters on Central Oregon Coast

Published 02/04/2011

(Yachats, Oregon) – Like a pale version of the famed “Black Smoke Monster” from the show LOST, you see a sudden and thunderous gush of sea of water erupt from the black basalt in a white plume. It fires off at an interesting diagonal, but it’s always noisy and abrupt – and just a bit frightening. Like that mythical smoke monster from that – well, let’s face it, a show that turned out to be goofy in the end – you half expect it to keep billowing its way out of the rockface and towards you and the rest of the crowd gathered to watch the spectacle.

A few miles south of Yachats, right at the border between Lane County and Lincoln County, there is a structure called Cook’s Chasm, part of the basalt that typifies this always dramatic and yet somewhat secretive chunk of the Oregon coast. About 20 miles or so down the road is Florence. Towering above you is the 800-foot point of Cape Perpetua. And down below, sitting on the left hand side of the Chasm, is what is called the “spouting horn,” some kind of fissure that manages to catch the waves just right, compress them, and send them shooting up in the air in a magnificent display of watery pyrotechnics.

It all depends on the conditions, however. It doesn’t happen all the time. Yet it doesn’t seem to take much. Although if conditions are fairly calm, you can count on not seeing anything. Often, you will have to keep an eye on this mighty beast to catch it rearing its head, and you may have to wait a few minutes. Other times, you don’t have to wait long at all (although this is admittedly when things are rather uncomfortably windy).

Then there’s the rumble it makes. When it shoots upwards, it makes a hissing noise not unlike when a whale spouts. But the waves themselves – which cause the effect in the first place – make some powerful crashing noises, which are augmented by the bouncing acoustics as sound smacks back and forth between the walls of the chasm and the bridge over the chasm.

That is when it rumbles as it hisses, and adds greatly to the whole startling nature of the thing.

Another interesting aspect comes around sunset. Often, the waning sun hits it just right and literally lights up the plume of sea water in bright colors – a kind of added pyrotechnic light show that should wind up making jealous the likes of rock stars like Kiss, Emerson, Lake & Palmer all the way up to Beyonce.

There’s more than one of these spouting horns here, but they’re sometimes hard to see from this vantage point. But you notice them from above at the top of Cape Perpetua.

The basalt rock in this area comes from a rather unique source – although not unlike the ancient lavas that created major landmarks like Tillamook Head or Haystack Rock around Cannon Beach and Seaside.

The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries says that about 50 million years ago, a kind of soft spot in the Earth’s crust was allowing all sorts of enormous lava flows to erupt. At the same time, the section of the Earth’s crust that contained this area of the coast was far inland – it has since drifted 100’s of miles to its current location.

As this area of the continent drifted over that eruptive area, over a period of several million years it created some massive mountain structures and vast basalt areas – like Cape Perpetua and the basalt that makes up this part of the central Oregon coast. These hills are actually old volcanoes, and some of them were underwater.

There’s a parking lot here at the spouting horn - one on both sides of the chasm - and there’s even a walkway on the bridge over the chasm to get a kind of bird’s eye view. However, the best view is still from the northern side of the bridge, as you can more easily see how other waves explode around it. Where to stay in this area - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours


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A famous little family eatery where the seafood practically gets shuffled from the sea straight into your mouth. Soups and salads include many seafood specialties, including cioppino, chowders, crab Louie and cheese breads. Fish 'n' chips come w/ various fish. Seafood sandwiches with shrimp, tuna or crab, as well as burgers. Dinners like pan fried oysters, fillets of salmon or halibut, saut�ed scallops.
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