Updated: Oregon Coast Sea Stacks: Basalt Guardians for Millions of Years
Published 05/27/2015 at 12:12 AM PDT -Updated 05/27/2015 at 3:19 PM PDT
(Oregon Coast) – They sit like giants half submerged in the ocean, not far from shore. As if they were massive, mythological sentinels set with the mission to guard Oregon's coast. When you stare at them closely, there is a dark, brooding quality about them, and their size becomes a little intimidating. Godzilla might even be chilled by the sight of them.
They are indeed ancient – millions and millions of years old. And incredibly resilient. Yet it's only in the last 150 years or so that European-descended settlers and tourists came to worship them with camera equipment and stand in awe of them, serving as major attractions of fun and silent spectacle.
Yet, as obvious and imposing as the sea stacks of the Oregon coast can be, they have a hidden aspect or two not so not so evident. Often, so do the tiny towns that have sprung up near them.
Each has come from some kind of volcanic eruption or another, mostly in the 45 million-year range. They were created by lava flows that came hundreds of miles from the east. The difference is some were part of basalt structures that simply eroded away and left behind various parts spread, while others were part of lava flows so intense they burrowed underground and came back up as re-eruptions. See the Oregon Coast Geology section for details on this wild history.
Here sits the other Haystack Rock with its much-photographed "needles" - the smaller stacks which jut upwards near the main monolith. Haystack, seen here in the distance, allows you to climb it a little bit and ogle the tide pools at lower tides.
Then, a ways to the north, you can catch loads of other sea stacks from Ecola State Park (the view in this photograph). At the very northern end of the town's beaches, the tide and a set of stacks guard the hidden beach of Crescent Beach - only accessible by a mile and a half hike from the road near the entrance to Ecola State Park. At those rare extreme low tides, you can walk into the beach (briefly, however, as the tide closes things back up soon).
Also from Ecola, you can catch the best and closest view of distant, mysterious Tillamook Rock and its legendary lighthouse - about a mile offshore.
Cape Kiwanda, Pacific City
This sea stack, with its arm-like structure hanging at its side, is one of two on the North Coast that share the name Haystack Rock. Being a monolith, it stands alone just a ways from the golden, wind carved cliffs of Pacific City's Cape Kiwanda. Sometimes, you'll see fishing boats wandering somewhat close to the giant basalt structure - and you'll feel a little jealous. "Why can't I inspect it at such close quarters?" you ask yourself.
Climb Kiwanda to catch dozens of amazing views and structures you won't see anywhere on the coast. From weirdly colored, pockmarked landscapes that look like an alien world, a giant bowl of basalt and sand with surprise geysers of sea water to incredible craggy cliffs of varied shapes to the brilliant gold of the cape that seems to catch fire when the sun hits it right.
The Twin Rocks looming offshore pop into view briefly in the section of Rockaway Beach called Twin Rocks, at its southern end. As you drive past Minnehaha St. on 101, you'll catch a brief glimpse as the dunes dip ever so swiftly, and the two sea stacks appear as two giants peeking out from the beach accesses. They don't appear again until you're in the middle of town or on the beach. At the access at Minnehaha St., they are at their closest to the beach. Once you get up onto the main beach parking lot by the trolley, the Twin Rocks are in the distance, but they show another side. This angle above allows the arch to become more pronounced and obvious. It doesn't look as thick from this angle as it does at the southern end. (See that angle at end of article).
This beach goes on for seven miles, and is still one of the coast's more pristine, in spite of it being so well known. It's like a hidden tourist resort, existing well on those contradictions in terms for years. Numerous hotels, a few eateries and several "touristy" shops inhabit this lengthy town, yet it never becomes bogged down in that commercial feel, no matter how hard it tries.
Heceta Head, Florence
On this varied and fun-filled beach near Florence, two sea stacks cap the headland which sports the Heceta Head Lighthouse and a labyrinth of amazing trails that show off unforgettable views. On the beach below, numerous sea caves line the cliffs here and provide tons of amusement possibilities.
The interesting story about the closest sea stack is that it was actually much more connected to the headland. However, tourists in the earlier part of the century spent so much time getting stranded or in trouble on the rocky bluffs that state authorities blasted the accessible chunks of rock away to keep folks from getting up there.
Now, the lighthouse allows visitors and tours, and the keeper's quarters is a B&B. The beach is a mix of tide pools, caves, sand, cobblestones and various birds that like to feast or just hang out.
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