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Oregon Coast Storms Reveal What's Beneath Cannon Beach at Silver Point

Published 02/16/21 at 6:46 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon Coast Storms Reveal What's Beneath Cannon Beach at Silver Point

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – It’s not every day – or every year, for that matter – that you get to see what’s underneath the north Oregon coast hotspot of Cannon Beach. Yet right now you can, at least in one tiny sliver of beach area. (Above: Photo courtesy Jesse Jones / CoastWatch)

Some eye-popping documentation of this was photographed by CoastWatch volunteer coordinator Jesse Jones, showing the 18-million-year-old bedrock that’s underneath all of Cannon Beach. It’s at a spot about where the Silver Point viewpoints are – those famed and cajoling viewing pullouts just south of Cannon Beach that draw everyone in. The beach beneath has all sorts of remarkable finds.

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CoastWatch is a group of volunteers that keep an eye on all of the Oregon coast’s 362 miles of beaches, giving the heads up on any manmade or natural trends that could be altering this coastline. Their recent posts have shown some wild storm damage to the dunes of the entire region. That storm action also scoured out the sands below Silver Point to such a degree that the very bottom rock formations are showing. This happens many winters but not every single one, and it gives you a fascinating look into what is beneath not just Cannon Beach but also Seaside and Gearhart.

The giant rock formation there is Jockey Cap Rock, which contains that mesmerizing sea cave you can sometimes see from the viewpoints above.

Seaside’s Tom Horning is a geologist who knows this region well, and he’s discussed this section of shoreline with Oregon Coast Beach Connection in the past.

This dark, jagged rock isn’t basalt like most of the rock structures you see at Haystack Rock, Tillamook Head, Cape Meares or down at Yachats. According to Horning, this dark gray material is mudstone, part of a massive formation beneath many beaches from Newport up through Astoria, called the Astoria Formation.


Photo courtesy Jesse Jones / CoastWatch

It’s softer than basalt and a conglomeration of other debris some 18 million years old or so that got pressed together over eons and eons. This area before all that was likely underwater (the continental shelf still had the shoreline many miles away at this time). This area had been heavily eroded and eventually got filled back up with other chunks of many different types of rocks, creating this mudstone and sandstone formation.

This same formation becomes markedly visible at Newport’s Moolack Beach quite often in winter, and you can see an endless array of fossilized creatures embedded there, but not as many at Cannon Beach’s Silver Point. See What Lurks Beneath Oregon Coast Beaches? Get Ready...

Horning said there’s only a few feet of sand at Cannon Beach covering up this bedrock. For whatever reason Silver Point is the only place where it gets scoured out so that you can see underneath.

What’s really kind of amazing is that Seaside has the same stuff beneath it – but it’s about 150 feet below the sand, Horning said. Tidal action is so different there that 100 feet of sand covers the bedrock.

Note: as of 2/17, there are still sizable wave surges coming into the area and Cannon Beach. You must wait until seas calm down to try and see this. Meanwhile, you can get a safer glimpse of some small amounts of bedrock near Haystack Rock.

Getting Here: You have to walk about a half mile or so from southern Cannon Beach to see Silver Point. Go only at low tide. It's not advisable unless you know the ocean here very well. This beach is small and there’s no access to run from sneaker waves or high tides. See tide tables.

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The Inn at Arch Cape  Historic gem, 100 years old. Updated rooms w/ flat panel TV, WiFi, fireplace made of beach rock (firewood provided). 31950 W. Ocean Lane. Arch Cape, Oregon. (less than 10 min drive from Manzanita) (503) 436-2082. Website here.- Book now

Inn at Haystack Rock.  3 blocks from downtown, only a block from beach. Garden courtyard with a Spanish-style fountain. Private patios, barbecue area, free wi-fi, flatscreen TV with DVD player, large, complimentary DVD library. Some host sleep two or three, one hosts six. 487 S. Hemlock. Cannon Beach . 800-559-0893. Inn at Haystack Rock website here.


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Photo courtesy Tiffany Boothe/Seaside Aquarium: opening to the cave


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