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Four Freaky Facts You Didn't Know About the Oregon Coast

Published 12/13/2013

Four Freaky Facts You Didn't Know About the Oregon Coast

(Oregon Coast) – Just when you thought you knew it all about the coastal region of Oregon, science drops some wild surprises. Some of these are really relevant to winter around these beachy parts, where the season spells some interesting twists and turns – and likely more reasons to head out to the coast soon. (Above: Cannon Beach's Haytsack Rock has an odd geologic story).

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. Meteorologists say it's roughly a ten-minute difference.

Conversely, however, the coast range mountains will cause the sunrise to be later on the coast.

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Sand Dollars Galore

If you love whole sand dollars – and want to pick them for free instead of buying them at local shops – you'll dig parts of Seaside.

Up at the north end, by 12th Ave, walk towards the Necanicum River and you'll soon start seeing tons of sand dollars everywhere. Given the right conditions, you'll find more whole sand dollars than at any other place on the Oregon coast. Partially because of a high population of them, a lot of it has to do with the lack of foot traffic around here, so those lying around the beaches don't get picked as much.

The biggest factor, however, is simply that there is an optimal situation for a lot of sand dollar beds just outside the surfline. Lots of nutrients from this river and the great Columbia up north feed this area, making for more than usual of the attractive critters.

The same is true of the other side of the river, at the southern end of Gearhart, actually. The river here divides the two towns.

Eerie Ghost Forests of Oregon Coast

You'd be surprised what's lurking beneath those sands of many beaches.

Winter sand levels can drop dramatically sometimes, causing a curios phenomena called “Ghost Forests” to show up in some areas. These are stands of trees between 4,000 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, 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 Oceanside. 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

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 45 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.

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