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Exceptional Time Travel Aspects of Central Oregon Coast's Newport - Millions of Years Onward

Published 6/20/24 at 5:35 a.m.
By Andre' Hagestedt, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

(Newport, Oregon) – Unlike much of this coastline, there is nothing truly sleepy about the resort-like hotspot of Newport. It's brimming and bustling with activity for much of the day, and even part of the nighttime if you count some of its bar scene. In fact, if you can't find much to do here, you've likely been deceased for awhile and no one has told you.

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Among the fascinating aspects of this central Oregon coast town are ones that involve some amount of time travel. One is a beach with discoveries millions of years old, while another involves two of the Oregon coast's most amazing lighthouses.

Moolack Beach. The northern edges of Newport host this rather remarkable stretch of beach, which really gets interesting in wintertime. During the rest of the year, it's sand and cool cliffs as far as the eye can see. But even then, prehistoric hints lie scattered about.

First, there's that engaging expanse of beach. Soft and pristine, it runs on for a few miles – from near Yaquina Head to Beverly Beach. It's part of that mesmerizing (and distracting) drive just north of town where ocean vistas are cause for extra self control to keep from gazing at them and keeping your eyes on the road.

In winter, some truly remarkable things happen. Many years – but not all – sand levels get insanely low and the bedrock starts showing. These reveal huge cracks and scrapes, showing how this area is sliced and diced by shifting sands on top of it during the other seasons.

What you're seeing is mostly part of a massive underlying structure that runs much of the central Oregon coast called the Astoria Formation, some 18 million years old

When sand levels reveal this surreal seascape, you can spot all sorts of ancient lifeforms in there. Fossils are embedded in this rock face all over.

They're usually masses of long-dead sea life – mostly shells - that ended up in a hole or at the bottom of the ocean millions of years ago. However, the cliffs here and even the sand provide plenty of these during other times of the year. Inside Bedrock at Newport's Moolack Beach: Oregon Coast's Fossil and Mystery Hotbed

It's perfectly legal to take fossils off the beach, but not to cut them out of any rock or surface area.

Tales of Two Lighthouses. Newport has a grand total of two lighthouses within its city limits, offering double the historic fun. One sits at the tip of Yaquina Head and is the tallest lighthouse on the entire Oregon coast. The other sits at Yaquina Bay at the southern side of town and resembles an old Victorian home – because it was one.

Both are open to explore, but not all the time. Availability here changes periodically, and hours certainly depending on time of year.

They also have a rich and colorful history, although the Yaquina Bay lighthouse's past is mostly limited to three years in operation. Yet things got more interesting in its afterlife.

It started shining in 1871 but was decommissioned shortly thereafter when the larger one to the north was built, thus negating the need. It began to fall into a serious state of disrepair not long after, and by the mid 20th century was essentially an eyesore and a favorite target of vandalism.

By the '70s, a long-standing ghost story had surrounded the spooky sight, involving a young girl who lived there who was being chased by pirates. At one point, she fell to her death, and had haunted the place ever since. This was even featured by several books by this time.

It took until the mid 1990s for restoration to be finished and the place opened back up again, this time as an attraction. Over the decades, they've had hosts greet visitors on occasion, and sometimes they would dress up in period garb as well.

In the meantime, the ghost story – it turned out – came from a local newspaper's shorty story of fiction that ran in the 1910s. It simply stuck as lore for a long time. Landmarks and Legends of an Oregon Coast Lighthouse, Newport's Yaquina Bay, Part I

At 93 feet tall (not counting the height of Yaquina Head), the northern lighthouse is part of the astounding headland, a potpourri of natural wonders all by itself. This one went live in 1873, maintained by a pair of lighthouse keepers always on duty until the '60s when the light went to all automated. The keepers quarters were demolished in 1984.

It has 114 steps to the top, and it has its own wild haunting lore as well. That involved a lighthouse keeper named Higgins who had died from falling on the staircase to the top, largely because of the irresponsibility of the other lightkeeper. He supposedly haunted the place thereafter.

However, the Bureau of Land Management eventually had a relative of Higgins write them and tell them he died in the '30s of natural causes – in Portland.

Both lighthouses have been ghost-busted. Yaquina Head Lighthouse and its History, Lore

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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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