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Seven Wild Facts About the Oregon Coast You Didn't Know

Published 08/16/2016 at 6:41 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

the Bayocean Spit used to have this resort town built upon it)

(Oregon Coast) – Sand that sings, beaches that glow at night, a hidden ghost town, something crazy the sunset might do – and some wild and wacky history. Get ready for a truly unique look at the Oregon coast you love – but only think you know. (Above: the Bayocean Spit used to have this resort town built upon it).

Here are seven mind-bending facts about these beloved beaches.


Sand That Glows – Sand That Sings. Glowing sand happens because of tiny bioluminescent phytoplankton called dinoflagellates. They are like fireflies – but tinier – giving off a faint glow when touched.

Under the right conditions, if you're at the wet sand near the tide line at night, you may see tiny green/blue flashes beneath your feet. More on that here.

The singing sands is much, much rarer and actually happens only on two spots on the coast: in some areas of the National Dunes Recreation Area south of Florence and just south of Cannon Beach. Sometimes, it sounds like distant voices singing. Others, it's a bit like a violin or an odd, elongated squeaking noise. This, too, only happens under certain conditions, when two different kinds of sands grind together under the right degree of humidity.

It's a tiny bit more frequent in the National Dunes Recreation Area than near Cannon Beach. Even so, park rangers who've worked at the Dunes for 20 years haven't heard it. The sands of Arcadia Beach sometimes make a little squeaking noise when trampled on, which may be where the singing sands legend comes from in that area. But at the dunes it's reportedly more like the standard singing sands anomaly.

Green Flash at Sunset. Sunsets are always a much anticipated moment on the Oregon coast, but some rare ones give an extra show. There is a phenomenon known as the "Green Flash at Sunset," which is a little more apt to happen during summer's lovely weather and fall's "Second Summer" on the coast.

Under the right conditions, you may see a brief green flash directly above the sun, just before the last sliver dips below the horizon. This can only happen on a day of no clouds, and it’s the result of a variety of conditions that block out certain color bands for a split second. A little more frequent - but harder to discern - is a slightly longer, green blob that lingers just above the sunset.

This scientific oddity was for years a means of ridicule for people claiming to see it, but by the '70s it was actually documented on film.

Pat Boone in a Pink Leisure Suit. One curious bit of history in the Waldport area is the big hotel for many decades known as the Bayshore Inn (most recently a Howard Johnson's and now the Alsi Resort). But originally, when it opened in the late '60s, it was called the Pat Boone Inn as he had some part ownership. The longtime crooner (eventually a friend of Christian rocker Larry Norman and a neighbor to Ozzy Osbourne) had his moniker associated with the place as it was thought to be good marketing.

Amusingly enough, the backlit sign on the roadside had a picture of Boone wearing – get this – a pink leisure suit.

On the darker side, in 1978, the Bayshore Inn hosted a meeting and membership event by the infamous Heaven's Gate cult, which offed themselves in a mass suicide in California in the '90s.

Giant Skeleton of Lincoln City. About 1932, human remains were discovered at the bottom of Cascade Head – and one was of a serious giant, clocking in at eight feet tall. This was a stunning discovery as there were local legends of an African man being worshiped as a god by native tribes, somewhere in the late 1700's. Even more remarkable, this corroborated legends of a “great winged beast” - essentially a sailing ship that wrecked here about that time.

It appears the three men – two Europeans and an African – were among the crew stranded here. When the African man suddenly began fathering children, the tribe folk decided he wasn't a god after all and killed him and his shipmates.

These finds – including what appears to be the shipwreck itself in the bay next to Cascade Head – started a treasure hunting fever that still exists today. There remainsl considerable scientific interest in the area, along with the treasure hunters.

Bayocean Spit and Its Ghost Town. The Bayocean Spit, next to the community of Cape Meares, is the closest thing you'll find to a ghost town on the Oregon coast. Except there's not even a trace of it left.

Bayocean is a weird remnant of history. There was once a large resort town here, bustling with two hotels, a natatorium, a dance hall of sorts and five miles of roads. Some 4000 lots were created for homes, with perhaps 1600 actually being sold.

All this happened around the 1910’s, with 1913 probably finding the place at its height. But heavy erosion in the area, failed business deals and finally the Great Depression ended the life of what was to be the “Atlantic City of the West.” By the '50s the spit was breached during a particularly heavy winter, and its streets were broken, crumbled and truly in a state of being a ghost town. Not long after that, the government razed the majority of the remaining buildings, and out of those left, the last of them fell into the sea by 1971.

One building was moved to Cape Meares: the chapel-like building that is their community hall. That's all that remains of a ghost of a ghost town.

Where to Find More Whole Sand Dollars on the Oregon Coast. Most people don't know this, but the mouth of the Necanicum River is where you'll find more whole, unbroken sand dollars than anywhere else on the coastline. This happens only on either side of the river: at the extreme northern edge of Seaside or the southern tip of Gearhart.

The reasons are complex and intertwined with how and why a lot of brown waves also happen in the area between Seaside and Warrenton. It largely has to do with all the nutrients in the area that come down from the Columbia River and the Necanicum, and the extra amount of food lets more of these beds of sand dollars thrive. So there are simply more sand dollar beds in that area.

For some reason, something in the currents or the terrain here tears these out of their beds – which lie just beyond the breakers – and deposits them on the sand. Then, because there are fewer people around either side of the Necanicum, more stay unbroken.

 

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