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Deeper Into Arch Cape Opens Up Oregon Coast History, Curious Noises and Sights

Published 04/19/23 at 4:42 AM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Deeper Into Arch Cape Opens Up Oregon Coast History, Curious Noises and Sights

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(Cannon Beach, Oregon) - A couple of miles south of Hug Point (just south of Cannon Beach), and just north of Manzanita, this is where the north Oregon coast all of a sudden becomes one big stretch of hidden spots and unspoiled splendor. A dark curtain of thick trees is drawn over much of this landscape, as the highway weaves up and down wave-like changes in elevation. Periodic glimpses of the waves below are given now and then, and just before you enter the cavernous Arch Cape Tunnel from the north, an abrupt but quite brief flash of beach comes into view. (All photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

This is what happens when you encounter the lovely little beach interlude known as Arch Cape. It's a tiny community that consists of a few homes and one or two businesses right on 101. But mostly it's a couple of beach accesses hidden behind some neighborhood streets - and it's one truly romantic beach walk.

And like the fact there's much more to it than the lightning-fast blip at the tunnel, there's more to Arch Cape's story than meets the eye. It has played an integral part in north Oregon coast history.

This beach, a mix of cobblestones and sand, reaches north all the way to near Hug Point (which is totally accessible at low tide after a two-mile walk.) Yet on its south side, up against the great cliffs of Cape Falcon, you'll find a small grouping of rock structures hugging a basalt point. At lower tides, you can walk between these and the cliffs and explore a rocky beach full of boulders, dramatic structures and that glorious object that got the place its name: a sizable arch.

See all those boulders surrounding this hole in the rocks? Those are part of what used to be three or so arches clumped together, creating a kind of spider-like formation. That's what originally gave Arch Cape its name, but it fell apart in the '40s. Now those rocks host all kinds of tidepool life.

To find a totally hidden spot adjacent to Arch Cape, you may be able to walk past those rock structures to a bit of secret paradise. Or, drive through the Arch Cape Tunnel about a mile, until you spot a sign signaling "Falcon Cove Road." This is a residential district, so you'll want to be respectful here as you park near a somewhat slippery, muddy beach access.

This is an unusual spot, comprised of large, polished cobblestones that make a rattling noise when touched by the tides. Falcon Cove Beach has been given the nickname of “Magic Rocks Beach” (hear the noise at this link) because of it. Stay away from it in winter for safety's sake, but in summers and higher-sand-level times of the year it's accessible and a kick in the pants.

At Arch Cape itself, Leech Lane is the main access and the one most visible, but to find any others you have to drive a bit north back on 101 and then take one of those tiny roads back in. There's a couple such accesses here, but they're hard to find, with the most obvious being about 40 feet from Sharks Lane. In this northern section, you get a different view of Arch Cape, where the beach widens a little more comfortably.

The street is not named for the big, bitey fish, by the way. It's named for the USS Shark that crashed at Astoria in the 1850s, and two of its cannon were found here later in the century. One disappeared into history.

In fact, originally this place was Cannon Beach because of those two great guns. Then it bagged that name and went for Arch Cape early in the 20th century. By 1922, the larger town to the north picked up the name Cannon Beach. Quirky Oregon Coast History: How Cannon Beach Got Its Name

That mysterious missing caronade? It was discovered in 2007 by a teenager walking this beach, opening up yet another chapter in Oregon coast and shipwreck history. Cannon That Gave Oregon Coast Town Its Name Leaves the State

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

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