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Wacky Science of Three North Oregon Coast Spring Break Hotspots

Published 03/16/2016 at 4:51 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Photo: whole sand dollars abound at one part of Seaside

(Oregon Coast) – The north Oregon coast has most of the biggest hotspots for spring break, but there's something remarkable lurking beneath their more touristy surfaces. (Photo: whole sand dollars abound at one part of Seaside).

Shipwrecks, surprising history, weird geology, and a stunning tip about beachy fun you surely didn't know about. Brace yourself for some incredible wonders as you hit the north coast for spring vacation and some new ways to enjoy yourself.

Seaside and Whole Sand Dollars. By far and away the biggest hotspot for spring break on the Oregon coast is Seaside. Chock full of family activities, there's probably one you don't know about: all the whole sand dollars. It's at the very northern end of town, by the Necanicum River, where you'll find more whole sand dollars than anywhere else on the Oregon coast.

It's not guaranteed to happen every day, but low tides after a period of stormier waves increase your chances of discovery. It happens for two reasons. One, there are fewer people here to pick them clean when they show up. And two: there's something in the water here that makes for more of them.

It's a simple matter of the food chain, said Seaside Aquarium’s Tiffany Boothe.

“Most of the nitrates and phosphates are delivered via the Columbia River, but some also come down the Necanicum and other smaller coastal rivers,” Boothe said. “This is why there is such good razor clamming on almost all of Clatsop County beaches.”

And oh yes, the area from here up to Warrenton is king for razor clams. Get a permit and drag the kids out at a lower tide.


Cannon Beach's Surprising Geology. A close second to favorites for spring break is the slightly more grownup-oriented Cannon Beach. There are numerous surprises in how the place was made, including the strange story of famed Haystack Rock. Another funky fact discovery can include a beach hike to an amazing hidden spot hiding in plain sight.

One of the most famous viewpoints on the Oregon coast is that of Silver Point, just south of town. Below it is where the real wonders lie, however. You can reach this by heading to the very last one or two streets at the southern edge of Cannon Beach, and then walking about a quarter mile or so from a one or two unmarked beach accesses.

Here, you'll find a trippy sea cave inside the mini-stack of basalt, which is almost never accessible (so don't try, however much you're tempted). The reef in this place does odd things to the waves, creating a spot where the breakers will move north to south (instead of coming in towards the beach), looking like some mysterious creature darting back and forth in the ocean.

Geologically, this spot is a bit mind-blowing. Look at those huge grooves carved in the cliff face and you may think Ice Age movement. No, say local geologists. This area was once at the bottom of the sea, and those grooves come from currents ripping down it like an underwater waterfall. This was tens of thousands, maybe millions of years ago.


Rockaway Beach's Bizarre Beach Secrets. As you're walking along parts of Rockaway Beach, either at the Oceans Edge Wayside (the main access with the caboose) or a couple blocks down, you're walking on some strange history.

Two blocks down, beneath those sands, sits the wreck of the Emily G. Reed, which crashed in the area about 100 years ago. Half of it drifted here, and its skeletal remains were first raided for treasure and then sat exposed for another fifty years or so. Then it mostly disappeared beneath the sands, not to return until a brief period in the 70s'.

It didn't return again until a mere two weeks in 2010, where it got quite a few wide-eyed looks and publicity, back when sand levels reached record lows during that winter.

At the main wayside, there are just small hints of a natatorium that once was the crowned jewel of this town. When sand levels get low enough, you'll see a small, circular wood structure, comprised of what look like little pilings jutting up from the sand.

This was part of a barrier kind of structure back before the 1940s', placed to keep the creek from destroying the natatorium. These natatoriums – a heated salt water pool -,were all the rage about 100 years ago. The bulkhead was comprised of large planks, and this is all that remains of the natatorium these days.

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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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