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Parts of the Oregon Coast That Broke

Published 07/30/21 at 6:15 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Parts of the Oregon Coast That Broke

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(Oregon Coast) – Change is one serious constant along these shores, though most of it happens at what makes a snail's pace seem even frenetic. Continental plates beneath us move at the rate of a fingernail's growth, which meant the Oregon coast took tens of millions of years to get from about where Silverton is now to its current location. Above all that slow, natural machinery, seas batter and smack the rock structures we know, slowly eroding even the toughest of them.

These are changes on a massive scale much of the time, and they can be mind-blowing. Sometimes you're looking at the long ago aftermath of destruction, making for the coveted appearance of a place you love right now. Other times, large changes have happened in our own lifetimes.

Here's a few examples.

Headland Near Florence (above). Between Sea Lion Caves and the soft, sandy stretches of Florence sit several rises and declines in the road, and a few massive outcroppings. One, which you can only see from certain angles, has clearly seen better days in the past.

What appears to be dark gray mudstone of some sort at one point saw a massive collapse. The headland here dropped away and crumbled, perhaps tens of thousands of years ago, or maybe just a few hundred years ago. There's no human account of what happened. However, that headland was complete at one point, and that giant gap means something colossal happened somewhere in its past.


Twin Rocks, Rockaway Beach. The iconic figurehead for Rockaway Beach is likely about 14 – 17 million years old, and what geologists call an intrusive basalt. That means it came from a lave flow so massive and powerful that it burrowed its way down through the sediment then re-erupted here to form giant blobs of black rock.

Basalt is one of the sturdiest rocks out there, so imagine the force over those millions of years that whittled them down in shape, turned what was likely one glob into two, and then bored a hole out of one.

Someday that arch will crumble, leaving three sea stacks, which one day may again acquire an arch. Hotels in Rockaway Beach - Where to eat - Rockaway Beach Maps and Virtual Tours


Photo courtesy Oregon State Parks

Arch Rock, Brookings. Arch Rock Viewpoint on the southern Oregon coast is much like Rockaway Beach's Twin Rocks, at least in shape. However, it's made of something completely different and not nearly as sturdy. It's also likely much older, perhaps around 200 million years old, although many such sea stacks along the south coast are a weird mish-mash of different ages all thrown into one structure. Some parts of them are from different periods over time.

This spot in the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor hosts a few arches and giant rocky holes, all of which came from a huge collapse at one point. The Natural Bridges area of the Corridor are another example of this. They and all those sea stacks with big holes will crumble some day, maybe decades to tens of thousands of years from now. South Coast Hotels - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours

Oceanside Arch. For as long as humans could remember around these parts, the beach on the other side of the cave at Oceanside had an arch. In fact, it resembled a time travel portal in the original Star Trek series and thus the beach got the nickname Star Trek Beach for awhile.

However, in 2004 winter storms here took their toll and that arch collapsed, leaving two little pointy chunks of rock. Hotels in Oceanside - Where to eat - Oceanside Maps and Virtual Tours


This arch, seen in 2010, crumbled within a year

Cape Kiwanda North. This particular brand of sandstone that makes up the north Oregon coast landmark is especially soft, and the weird fact is that the sturdier Haystack Rock in the distance actually keeps it from getting eroded faster.

In 2011, an arch on the north side of the cape crumbled, leaving a bit of sadness for the scenic loss, but the debris made a larger area for visitors to check out that oceanic canyon a bit more safely. However, just in the last weeks of July 2021, another arch there crumbled as well – which could've been deadly had someone been in its way. Luckily that did not happen. Hotels in Three Capes - Where to eat - Three Capes Maps and Virtual Tours

Thor's Well / Devil's Punchbowl. Old sea caves on the Oregon coast are really ancient, sometimes millions of years old. Occasionally, the top drops away, leaving giant holes where you can look down.

That's how Thor's Well near Yachats was formed – the famed but infamously dangerous feature at Cook's Chasm. This is also how Devil's Punchbowl near Depoe Bay was created.


The original Jump-Off Joe in the '20s, now long gone (photo courtesy Lincoln County Historical Society, Newport)

Jump-Off Joe, Newport. This is one place on the Oregon coast where you can see enormous changes in a little over 100 years. In the 1880s there was another headland here, which soon whittled down into a structure that was first called Jump-Off Joe. By the ‘30s, it too crumbled and a second headland got the name. By the ‘70s, it was disappearing even more quickly, but for awhile had a long, dinosaur tail-looking structure and an arch. In the ‘90s that fell apart with an enormous noise, according to local accounts.

Then in early 2021, the headland began destabilizing completely and was deemed unsafe. It was the official end to the second Jump-Off Joe. Hotels in Newport - Where to eat - Newport Maps and Virtual Tours

 


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