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Blow Holes and Spouting Horns Along Oregon Coast: When Waves Fire Upwards

Published 07/20/22 at 5:45 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Blow Holes and Spouting Horns Along Oregon Coast: When Waves Fire Upwards

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(Oregon Coast) – Big, splashy waves are one thing along the Oregon coast. You expect it along rocky ledges and clifflines that hug the ocean closely. You gravitate towards these when winter gets unruly, always entertained by the watery pyrotechnics. (Photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

But what if the waves come out elsewhere? Not along the ledges? To boot, what if they make weird hissing noises?

That would be one of the handful of spouting horns or blow holes along the Oregon coast: places where the wave energy gets compressed into one long, fiery shot upwards. Maybe there's a roar or hissing noise accompanying them, but almost always it takes a sizable tide to create these delightful mini-monsters.

Some are much rarer than others, or smaller – but all are worth looking for.

First some basic rules: stay clear of them, or at least stay back behind any fencing that's there to keep you from safe from the consequences of dinging around too close to Davy Jones' locker. That barrier? It's not there for artistic reasons. From the small, squirty action of Cape Kiwanda's blow hole to the mighty explosions of the spouting horn at Depoe Bay, you need to respect the distance officials have put there. People have died getting around those barriers.

Strangely, there are none of these on the southern Oregon coast, and no, the magnificent monsters of Shore Acres near Coos Bay do not count. Those are cliffs that compress the action in a unique way and make for walls of ocean water.

Indeed, the first real instance of this crevice-born phenomenon is between Florence and Yachats at Cook's Chasm. This one is probably the most interesting of them all with its prominent hissing noise. Here, at the southern edge of the channel, this ancient basalt rock (about 36 million years old) is broken and cracked in just the right places to make the waves shoot at a 45-degree angle, making that trippy noise.

If you're lucky, sunset will hit it just right and light it up in a unique way.

Within 40 feet of it is famed Thor's Well. Why the well has more fame these days than the spouting horn is beyond understanding: it's way cooler than the mere hole in the rock.

Next up is at the extreme southern end of Yachats, at Ocean Road. It's a somewhat secret blow hole – largely because it's not very big and doesn't happen all that often. It only jets into the air about three feet high or so, and then usually turns into a mist very quickly.

The biggie in this central Oregon coast town is the spouting horn at Smelt Sands, on the 804 Trail. There, a giant crevice in this rock channels the waves into sometimes enormous geysers of water, as high as 20 feet at times. This is a powerful one when it gets over 10 feet, so stay back. All that water comes back down with force, too, making a loud smacking sound. If conditions are right, you'll actually see one or two of these going off nearby. Hotels in Yachats - Where to eat - Yachats Maps and Virtual Tours

Perhaps the most well-known of them all is at Depoe Bay, which is known for firing up some 30 feet or more at times. It's famous for soaking cars in traffic – which is a truly weird thing to have to turn on your windshield wipers for. Those living across the street get a pretty steady mist from this, which makes cleaning cars, homes and businesses a little more difficult. Hotels in Depoe Bay - Where to eat - Depoe Bay Maps and Virtual Tours

Along the start of the Three Capes Route, at Cape Kiwanda, there's a somewhat hidden tiny geyser lurking in a bowl-like structure. A short walk from the already-strenuous pathway up to the top of this Pacific City gem, a chunk has been carved out into a half-circle shape, almost like a little cove. Hotels in Three Capes - Where to eat - Three Capes Maps and Virtual Tours

At its bottom, you'll notice a large crevice where the sea water comes crashing in, not unlike many chunks of the Yachats area. Between you and that crevice is a sizable flat area with large cracks running through it. One of these cracks sometimes fires up into the air a few inches to a foot or so.

Farther up the north Oregon coast, at Oceanside, there's a bit of wave action like a spouting horn, but it technically isn't. At the tip of Maxwell Point, during large enough tides, waves fire up in a fairly narrow shape in the same spot over and over. Hotels in Three Capes - Where to eat - Three Capes Maps and Virtual Tours



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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees nearly 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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