Oregon Coast Sand Levels Doing Crazy Things - But Not Too Crazy
(Oregon Coast) – Every summer brings lots more sand to Oregon beaches, and often that means a curious state that mimics a really low tide. This year, it's happening again and allowing insane access to a host of places not usually traversable. (Above: Lincoln City's sand levels are creating massive pools of water in interesting places).
Winter time brings larger wave action to the Oregon coast and thus a kind of scouring dynamic that sucks sand out off the beach. But in summer, tides bring in more sand with its calm ocean conditions, and in recent years this has meant some unusually high sand levels in most spots along the coast. This, in turn, can cause the sands to build up so high they keep the tide farther out and thus yield some interesting surprises. Not only does it seem like a constant low tide on your favorite beach, but many landmarks that are normally underwater are suddenly open to exploration.
A few examples:
Oceanside, near Pacific City and Tillamook, has again seen excellent access around Maxwell Point. Usually, this tip of the mini headland is under water and way too dangerous to amble around on, but as in previous summers you can now easily walk around the point without having to go through the tunnel.
Arch Cape, near Cannon Beach, is again open to exploration on the other side of that point. You can round the rocky tip and easily check out the arch the little village was named for.
Also near Cannon Beach, Hug Point doesn't always allow you access to the little coves and caves around its northern edge and see the wonders there. This year, however, the tide is kept well at bay and it's easy to visit the large and rather mysterious cave, the waterfall – and it's safe to walk around that road that was carved into the rocks here about 100 years ago.
This isn't the only startler around here, either. A huge array of tide pools filled with starfish are now quite visible at the base of that road. Not only can you walk around that road but you can walk next to it. There's often a good 30 feet between this road and the tide line.
At Newport's Nye Beach, what is normally a flat beach is now thick with dune-like structures. Sand has really piled up there, and of course this makes the beach much broader than usual.
The cove at Seaside is much easier to wander as well. This section at the southern edge of town is usually a bit too short on distance between the boulders and the wild tide. But not now.
However, not all places on the coast are as affected as others. One of the more dramatic examples of high sand levels opening on a spot in the last few years is Devil's Punchbowl, between Newport and Depoe Bay. The last two years saw it open enough to actually get inside the Punchbowl, which is rare.
This year, that has not been the case – or at least if it has it's been only briefly. A photo of the area earlier this summer showed it still fairly covered up and inaccessible.
Other rocky places to keep an eye out for include Yachats and the 20 miles of rather hidden beaches just south of there. Many of these could yield plenty of surprises.
Still, you must keep beach safety in mind. These conditions can change quickly, or the tide could get higher than usual, so keep a close eye on these spots and do not approach them if the tide line doesn't leave you tons of room.
How long will these conditions last? A good turn in tides and weather could start sucking the higher sand levels back out at any time, but this current run of a calm Oregon coast will likely keep sand levels high as long as it sticks around. These beaches are headed for the nicest weather of the year too, in what's called the “Second Summer.” September and early October are usually the warmest times of the year on the coast, with the least wind and generally really mellow ocean conditions. So it's likely the unusual access will remain through at least the middle of September.
For maps and more information on these areas, see the virtual tours at right.
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