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Erosion, Falling Bluffs Sometimes Dramatic on Oregon Coast This Season

Published 02/09/22 at 5:58 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Erosion, Falling Bluffs Sometimes Dramatic on Oregon Coast This Season

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(Oregon Coast) – The Oregon coast is an interesting mix right now of erosion and no erosion in some areas, with at least a couple of spots with higher-than-normal sand levels for winter (such as just south of Cannon Beach see A Different Look Near Cannon Beach - N. Oregon Coast Beach Changes). But many others have been eaten away to quite a degree and showing some fascinating erosion, while also serving as lessons and warnings in some cases. (Above: Tillicum Beach and a landslide, courtesy CoastWatch's mudslide).

Winter got off to a rough and wild start along the coastline, but since January conditions have been extraordinarily calm in general, so you should start to see some spots with lower sand levels start increasing.

In the meantime, environmental group CoastWatch still keeps a close eye on conditions up and down the shoreline, and always comes up with engaging reports about what's going on along just about every beach area you can think of.

As of November, the areas around Devils Kitchen and Haystack Rock at Bandon were still in quite the state of erosion, according to CoastWatch's tbowspencer. Sand levels were remarkably low for that early in the winter season, and they hadn't really replenished since last year's enormous tidal events. Even the creeks there were at levels far lower than usual.


Pacific City: photo courtesy beattieb.

Farther up the Oregon coast, CoastWatch reports show plenty of stuff still gutted along the beaches. One major example about a month ago was Pacific City, where the boat ramp was beginning to get undercut again. This had happened a few years ago but to an extreme level, where that part of the beach was actually closed for a bit because it was causing the concrete of the ramp to break apart.

Nothing so extreme this year, thankfully, according to the photos by CoastWatch's beattieb.

Down on the south Oregon coast, Myers Creek and that entire mile in and around it and the Pistol River access are showing continued erosion of the vegetation foredunes.

In and around the Yachats to Florence area is showing some major undercutting in spots.

According to CoastWatcher mudslide, there are large chunks of the bluff that have fallen off Tillicum Beach's southern areas (see top photo). You can see from the photo some rather massive boulder-like material lying next to the sandstone cliff, with someone's home just above it.

Another problem area is Strawberry Hill between Florence and Yachats, according to CoastWatch mile watcher GasiorowskiM. Streams and weather are eroding bluffs and the pathways down to the beach, creating steeper and more dangerous walks downward. Yet humans are not helping, it seems.

Cliff getting eaten away at top, courtesy CoastWatch's GasiorowskiM

“Most of this seems to be caused by wave action, as evidenced by the many large pieces of driftwood on the beaches up against the bluffs, and by the numerous streams flowing down the bluffs onto the beaches,” the reporter said. “But the graffiti at various places on the bluffs indicates people have been climbing on the bluffs, also contributing to erosion.”

There is a reason for those “do not climb” signs. These two reports serve as cautionary tales to visitors: watch those cliffs during rainy weather (there may be a sudden landslide), and don't climb on cliffs at all.

Near Newport, Holiday Beach (a hidden spot just south of town) is showing more cliffs falling apart.

On the fun side, Ocean Beach Picnic Area near Florence is presenting lots of gravel beds and fields of rocks, which means great agate hunting.

Granted, this could change at any time: such conditions can come and go quickly with the tides.

At Waldport, the Alsea Spit is showing interesting signs of recovery, with evidence of heavy erosion still there, but lots of sand starting to re-cover the area.


Bayocean in the 1910's: the area was a thriving resort town for awhile, which eventually fell into the sea

Farther up on the north Oregon coast, Bayocean's spit near Tillamook has a lot of undercutting of the dunes in spots. January storms really started to eat away at some bluffs and there was considerable retreat in spots, according to CoastWatcher edjoyce.

At the Clatsop Spit at Fort Stevens, landslides have happened along several bluff areas, with newly-exposed roots and trees, even major cracks appearing. Storms really took out some chunks of a pretty solid bluff at times.

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