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Four Wowing Surprises of Winter on Oregon Coast

Published 11/16/22 at 4:39 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Four Wowing Surprises of Winter on Oregon Coast

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(Oregon Coast) – Winter on the Oregon coast means a lot of good storm watching – but there's more to it than that. Time and space themselves play a role in some of the surprises of the season. (Photo courtesy Oregon's Adventure Coast)

There's some trippy science stuff that comes to light this time of year.

Need More Day During Winter?

Got the winter blues because of lack of daylight? Heading to the Oregon coast may make a slight difference. Believe it or not, the sun goes down about ten minutes later than in inland towns like Portland or Eugene. Because of the coast range mountains, the valley gets blocked a little bit earlier by sunset. Oregon Coast Beach Connection has tested it in one place and the difference between Warrenton and Portland was seven minutes. Other places on the coast are slightly more, but it gets lesser farther into the south Oregon coast around Coos Bay or Bandon.

Oregon Coast Beach Connection

Conversely, however, sunrise happens a little later as well, and the Coast Range Mountains will cause even a further delay.

Extreme Storm Action

Cape Disappointment, courtesy Visit Long Beach Peninsula

Watching storms during Oregon coast winters is probably the most obvious, and it's one of the most popular tourism activities here.

The two most spectacular places for this are Shore Acres down around Coos Bay and Cape Disappointment near IlWaco on the south Washington coast. Both have very unique reefs that spell enormous waves the likes of which you've never seen. Shore Acres can acquire swells that fire up two hundred feet in the air, while some of those approaching Cape Disappointment can be clocked in at almost 100 feet high.

Rodea Point

Not all the great ones are that well-known, however. Otter Point near Gold Beach gets some jaw-dropping action, and Rodea Point near Depoe Bay is just amazing – and rather noisy.

Eerie Ghost Forests of Oregon Coast

Near Seal Rock, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

Winter brings some true surprises sometimes.

Sand levels can drop dramatically due to storms, uncovering curiosities called “Ghost Forests” in numerous areas. These are stands of trees between 5,000 years old and 2,000 years old that were abruptly buried in the sand and thus cut off from the decaying effects of oxygen. This keeps them preserved in a remarkable state.

There are some visible year-round at Neskowin, and some at Coos Bay's Sunset Bay, but during the winter you sometimes find them just north of Newport, near Seal Rock, at Hug Point near Cannon Beach, near Pacific City and even Cape Lookout. Here's a full list of where to find Oregon coast ghost forests and the theories behind their creation.

When do these appear? Hard to say. It doesn't happen every winter. Check those spots listed above periodically and keep an eye on Oregon Coast Beach Connection for news updates on what appears.

Signs of Underwater Volcanoes Around Us

Lower sand levels of winter can reveal even more about a famous landmark, and thus questions about its origin. That story is often quite bizarre.

One of the weirdest facts about the Oregon coast is that most of those much-revered headlands you see were created by lava flows some 15 million years old. That is a wild story in itself – see the Oregon coast geology page for full information on these molten rivers.

Even more interesting is that some of these flows were so huge they actually created secondary eruptions, where the lave plowed down into softer sand and ocean sediments and then re-erupted again as little bubbling volcanoes. Some of these re-eruptions formed two of the most photographed icons of the entire Oregon coast: Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock and the Twin Rocks at Rockaway Beach (above).

Geologists call this an “intrusive” rock formation because it was created by lava flows diving underground and then intruding upwards again. You'll also find other sea stacks like these around the Cannon Beach area.

In and around Yachats, just about all the basalt you find is from a little old volcano we now know as Cape Perpetua.

On the south coast, there is no basalt but instead rocks that are composites of stuff mashed together over millions of years, like many are a combo of things 40 million years old, 100 million years and maybe two more epochs. Bandon's Face Rock is one geologic example.

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