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What's Washing Up on Oregon Coast? How Beaches are Changing

Published 12/11/2016 at 5:23 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Cove Beach, where beach access is now cut off due to erosion

(Oregon Coast) – Winter means storms and big waves on the Oregon coast, and that means sand levels are sinking and funky stuff is piling up on the beaches. As erosion takes out sand and waves climb higher, the beaches around here change rapidly. (Above: Cove Beach, where beach access is now cut off due to erosion).

CoastWatch, the group of volunteers that keeps an eye on the Oregon coast for changes along the shorelines, has plenty of eyes out there taking notes. The group's website includes a section that shows what its volunteers are finding, found at This is especially fun to peruse in winter as much more happens on these sands and rocky areas this time of year.

Some of the reports from that last month include a variety of interesting sightings and discoveries.

A bottle with Russian writing on it was found at Gleneden Beach early this month – something truly unique.

Tillicum Beach

Down the road about 30 miles, Tillicum Beach access (near Yachats) hasn't eroded enough yet to show ghost forests and such, as one CoastWatch observer noted. But plenty of cliff erosion is taking place, with the volunteer posting photos of large chunks of the cliff falling off into the sand, including a section that held part of a fence.

Lost Creek, near Waldport, had a stranded sea lion in distress earlier in December. The CoastWatch volunteer checking out that area wound up reporting it to the local Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

Lost Creek

That day's report from the group's website talks about plenty of other interesting beach finds at Lost Creek.

“Saw two bald eagles at top of cliff, one blue heron, some birds that I believe were sandpipers, and otherwise only sea gulls. Quite a lot of bull kelp. No crab carapaces that I could see, but some broken mussel and clam shells.”

The observer also found a large helping of debris, including heavy foam fishing floats (one with Korean writing), lots of plastic and plastic rope entangled in seawood or driftwood.

At Del Rey Beach, close to Warrenton, the Coast Watch volunteer there did a survey of birds and found 21 different species in mid November, including northern Fulmars, Red Phalaropes and Common Murres. One Fulmar needed help and was later brought to the North Coast Wildlife Rehabilitation Center near Astoria.

Cove Beach next to Arch Cape (Cape Falcon) is one very clandestine spot on the north Oregon coast, which most do no know about. Earlier in November, it was even more hidden as landslides had cut off some access to the beach. CoastWatch also witnessed plenty of kelp and an interesting fight between a seagull protecting its young and a bald eagle.

Later, in early December, more erosion and landslides have completely cut off access to the beach – which is often a good thing this time of year since high sea levels tend to leave no walkable areas here anyway. The observer noticed major cracks appearing in the bluffs with more root systems exposed there, along with evidence the waves have been washing over the boundary of the beach and onto soil.

This secret spot has some rocky bluffs nearby where pelicans and maybe seals congregate.

At Lincoln City's Taft area (above), along the mouth of the Siletz River, large amounts of driftwood and beachgrass have been washing up. Plenty of manmade debris as well, including small bits of plastic and bottle caps.

At Rocky Creek Wayside near Depoe Bay, it seems the warning signs about not going beyond the fences are being ignored more and more. There's an increasingly-worn pathway being created that goes down to a very dangerous section of rocky shelves, and this has apparently resulted in one death last year.

The observer also noticed a fair amount of styrofoam in Whale Cove, but otherwise that hidden beach area remains clean. Where to stay in these areas - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours

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