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Five Unusual Rock Structures of Oregon Coast: Shapes to Weird Steps

Published 01/23/22 at 5:36 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Five Unusual Rock Structures of Oregon Coast: Shapes to Weird Steps

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(Oregon Coast) – From faces in the sea to head-scratching shapes, to oddly convenient formations in the rocks: the Oregon coast is full of stuff you've never encountered inland. It's a wilderness of wild discoveries in the sand and covering the sands. The rocky places here make for some remarkable finds, some of which lurk in out-of-the-way places. (Above: strange natural steps at Strawberry Hill near Florence)

Here's five spots you'll have to see to believe, including one bizarre concept in rocky finds.

Depoe Bay's North Point. It's not an easy place to find but it's oh-so-worthwhile.

Look for Vista Street at the north end of town, then follow it through a small, winding road through a neighborhood. This blob of a promontory here is called North Point, but you'll likely see the sign Depoe Bay Scenic View Area (there's actually two spots called that in town – yeah, confusing). Trudge out between the bushes and trees and you'll find a chunk of basalt that's truly distinctive.

Stop here at the right time, if the waves are rollicking enough, and you'll feel this otherwise sturdy, ageless rock vibrate beneath you. It's a wild sensation.

At its southern edge, you can peek out at the central Oregon coast town from the west – as if you're out on a boat. This finger-like ledge that juts out here is a familiar one from viewers on the seawall: it's where those waves crash with such scenic ferocity. While you're here, though, it winds up spraying you with ocean water if you get too close.

Cape Kiwanda. Sweeping and grand yet surreal, Cape Kiwanda is the golden child of the Oregon coast – quite literally. When the sunsets hit it just right, the entire headland fires up into various shades of gold and bright yellows, creating a striking visage. In other moments, there's a wide variety of textures and shades, along with shapes that are sometimes a little inexplicable.

One part of it lies in a forbidden path, a no-go zone that is extremely dangerous but which people have trod on for over 100 years. There, it's a strangely pock-marked landscape riddled with sights that look more at home in a Star Trek alien moment than somewhere here. Another section soars with a towering dune and trees that look shredded by weather and winds, barely clinging to life.

Still other parts sit just beyond the headland: little islands of sorts that have been disconnected from the main section for maybe hundreds of years, sometimes with little green tufts at their tops, probably by now having developed their own tiny ecosystem. Looking down from some areas starts to resemble the old Roger Dean album covers from Yes.

Just what is Cape Kiwanda? It may not be quite what you think.

Kissing Rock Near Gold Beach. A crusty and slightly kooky sight if there ever was one, Kissing Rock on the south Oregon coast looks more like a tattered old doll head with maybe a bit of a kissy face going on. In actuality, it looks a little more like a Pac Man face in mid-bite.

In any case, you'll find it just a tad south of Gold Beach at the Hunter Creek Turnout.

The rock itself and its surrounding rocky bits seem to provide a slight labyrinth-like shelter, with some spaces way more claustrophobic than others. These, in turn, make for decent smooch spots, should you want to stop for a moment for beachside makeout session. By and large, however, it's one of those fab south coast stops with plenty of grayish to darker sands (the darker sands indicate possible gold), and varying amounts of funky rocky blobs to play on.

Bandon's Face Rock. She's working on nearly a quarter billion years old, but she doesn't look a day over 40 million. (Photo courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more)

It's an eerie but beautiful sight, and something you can't unsee: that rock looks just like a face sitting in the water. Face Rock looks just like a woman's face, to be exact – like a giant mummy. This depends on your vantage point, however: some angles it's just a blob out there.

She was called Ewauna by local Coquille tribes, in a complex tale that involves a vengeful god that turned her to stone and doomed her to forever stare up at the sky. Other sea stacks around her were called her “kittens” and there's even a dog involved (Komax, also known as Howling Dog and Wizard's Hat Rock).

Geologically, Face Rock is an intriguing mixture of stuff that's been crammed together down the ages, starting from a bit over 200 million years ago. The south Oregon coast is simply surprising in that way.

Mystery of Natural Rocky Stairways. They're probably the most unusual rock structure finds along the Oregon coast, and they seem to mostly be in the Lane County area where there's some really old basalt. (Above: Cook's Chasm)

In spots like Neptune Beach, Strawberry Hill or around Cook's Chasm (as well as North Point at Depoe Bay, seen above), you'll see what look like small, crooked steps embedded in the rocks. They're clearly a natural feature, however.

Evidence of Ancient Aliens? Hell, no. It's some rather complex geology, however. They're called cordwood joints by most geologists, and they occur because fiery lava injects itself into cracked basalt (which is from some previous lava flow), and then expands things in there, cracking the area even more. Cracked basalt is always easier to erode, so they wind up getting whittled away into steps-like features over millions of years. See Mysterious Step-Like Rocks of the Oregon Coast.

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