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Keep an Eye Out for These Oregon Coast Winter Oddities

Published 01/24/2013


(Oregon Coast) – Possibly coming to a neighborhood near you (at least on the coast): some wild and weird stuff. (Above: ghost forest at Neskowin)

Winter on these beaches always means some exceptional sights – most of which people don't even know about. They come for the storms, and rightly so. But those storms and their wacky wave drama are just the beginning. From agates to whale watching secrets, to incredible finds like objects 4,000 years old sticking out of the sand and oddities called Whale Burps or Ocean Burps, January means some interesting discoveries.


Lincoln City gravel bars

Much of it begins with storms. These create a lot of erosion, and erosion lets you find a lot more agates. Look for large gravel beds in the sand as these will yield the goodies. This happens all over the coast, but central Oregon coast spots like Lincoln City, Ona Beach, Seal Rock, Newport and parts of Oceanside simply rock when it comes to finding the rocks.

Agate beds can appear and disappear quite quickly, sometimes within hours. So be on the lookout everywhere you go on the coastline.

Cape Lookout Ghost Forest

Erosion also brings to light some other intense surprises, such as:

Ghost Forests. Some are extremely rare sights, and these are the oldest ones. Ghost forests less than 2,000 years old can be seen a bit more frequently, like the ones at Neskowin, which are viewable year-round.

Ghost Forests are stumps of trees that have been buried under the sand by some sudden landscape change millennia ago. They were killed off by this, but that same process preserved them by hiding them from the air.

How they got that way has some eerie aspects. Many scientists believe this was a slow geologic process where the landscape simply changed over a matter of decades and covered up the trees. Others believe it's firm evidence of some massive tsunamis and frightening earthquakes which caused the ground to abruptly drop as much as thirty feet.

During the winter, older ones might be found at several places, including: Cape Lookout State Park, Arch Cape and Hug Point (near Cannon Beach), Moolack Beach near Newport, and a mile north of Seal Rock.


Red Towers. If sand levels get really low, look for these surreal beach objects. Only a couple feet high, if that, these are basically beach sand cemented by red iron oxide. Dreamlike in appearance, they look like something out of Dr. Suess or an album cover from the band Yes. More about Red Towers

Winter storms cause the ocean to cough up strange objects as well. Look for these:

Whale Burps. Compressed chunks of beach grass that are so hard they can't be broken, and sometimes look like bales of hay.

Ocean burp photos Seaside Aquarium

Ocean Burps. Also known as detritus, these are extremely varied finds left over from deep in the ocean. Look for a brownish mass of wood and grassy matter from afar, but up close is a small treasure chest of natural oddities like cockleshells, hermit crabs, squid eggs, casings from other eggs, moon snail shells and somewhat rare rock finds. You never know what you'll run into. More about these

Japanese Glass Floats. In-the-know collectors hate us for exposing this, but those coveted Japanese glass floats can be found more and more frequently starting about now, through into March. Finding them, however, is an art in itself.

Whale watching is only just winding down about now. They are still migrating past here in great numbers, until about the first week of February when it suddenly stops.

You'll want to find a calm day and a high viewpoint, such as Neahkahnie Mountain near Manzanita, Cape Foulweather near Depoe Bay, Ecola State Park at Cannon Beach or the Cape Perpetua Visitors Center near Yachats – to name a few. You'll want to look out a few miles beyond shore. Where to stay for this - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours

More about Oregon Coast Whales

More Ghosts Forests, a complete guide at In Search of More Oregon Coast Ghost Forests

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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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