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Covering 160 miles of Oregon coast travel: Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Wadport, Yachats & Florence.

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Geologic Wonders of Oregon Beaches Make Freaky History Lesson

By Andre’ Hagestedt

Sea stacks- like these at Oceanside - are often the remains of an ancient headland

(Oregon Coast) – The fun and frivolity of Oregon’s coast goes deeper than you know – quite literally. Beneath the sands, behind the sea stacks and deep inside the cliffs, what you see on the coast has quite the freaky history.

Millions of years ago, the coastline was actually somewhere about Silver Creek Falls, about 100 miles inland. About that time, the fissure beneath the Earth that now produces the fun of Yellowstone National Park was located around what is now the Oregon/Idaho border (tectonic plates beneath us move all the time, and have moved that far in the last 65 million years).

Back then, that opening in the crust caused enormous, cataclysmic eruptions the likes we can’t even imagine seeing now. Walls of scorching lava, hundreds of feet high, marched across and scoured the landscape all the way to the sea, where they would end their horrendous, fiery journey in a fit of steam.

Geologic faultlines are still visible at Seal Rock

This is the cause of many of the basalt structures and headlands you see today on the coast. Often, sea stacks are the remnants of a headland that once stretched out into the sea, but was eroded over time. In some cases, some scructures were created on the sea floor, then emerged from the water as the land throughout the millennia. Many different actions went into each one, and it differs depending on which structure you’re talking about.

But in the end, it’s the mix of rock structure, landscape and sea that has the most enduring fascination and enchanting effect on us. The ocean shores are so completely different than the rest of the world we live in – and for good reason. There are so many more different, complex processes going on here that constantly create change in this fluid, sometimes weird environment.

Here’s a few examples you may not know about.

Depoe Bay’s Spouting Horn

There's a unique feature to Depoe Bay that few - if any - cities on the Oregon Coast have. No other coastal town has a spouting horn right in the middle of downtown, anyway. Here, there are two views of this magnificent monster from the depths. One, during a spring day full of lots of breaker action, you can see the spouting horn in full force. It shoots sea water high into the sky with tremendous force. Watch out if you're driving by: it's certainly a strange and slightly silly experience to find yourself having to use your windshield wipers because a chunk of ocean water just sprayed all over your car.

In fact, businesses across the way, such as the Pacific Crown Inn, find they have to wash their vehicles quite frequently because of the constant exposure to salt water flying through the air.

In this other shot, during a calmer day, you see the culprit. A large fissure in the basalt rock here compacts the waves and their immense energy into one huge aerial wallop - something akin to our own version of Old Faithful (except that it's very random and dependent upon certain tidal conditions).

Much of the Depoe Bay area was created by what is called “pillow basalt.” Basalt rock is formed by lava cooling off, solidifying into this kind of black rock. Pillow basalt is the softer edged, slightly roundish rock, made when lava hits the water and steams itself into these smoother shapes.

Spouting horns, like this one and those around Cape Perpetua south of Yachats, were formed by cracks in the rocks that were eroded away over the centuries into chasms or tube-like structures, which compress the wave action in just the right way as to cause it shoot upwards.

Short Beach, by Oceanside

One of the state's most enthralling hidden spots lies right next to Oceanside, just west of Tillamook. Look for Radar Rd. along the back road between Oceanside and Cape Meares, and you'll find the refurbished entrance to this stunning beach.

Until recently, the way down here was precarious and slippery, causing many injuries. But locals got together and created this "stairway of 1000 steps."

First, you'll find the bulbous blob at the tide line, resembling the sea stack at Neskowin to the south. Wander here a bit longer, and you may see the waterfall coming from the side of the cliff which hosts the lighthouse. Legends abound here. It's said that at extreme low tides, there is yet another tunnel visible (like the one through the cliff in Oceanside). One version of the legend says there may be two tunnels here.

Stunning Spot Without A Name

Just south of the county lines between Lane and Lincoln counties, a ways south of Yachats, sits a beach spot with no name. The parking lot gives way to a path down to this beach with two personalities: one is a sandy, slightly stony crescent, the other a labyrinth of basalt structures.

Where the two parts meet, a small basalt arch stretches over and into the sand. Black, giant, jagged rocky slabs contain numerous fissures or cracks, where the tide can do especially spectacular things (you don't want to be around them at these times, however). Huge logs lie all about, testifying to the dangerous power of the waters here. Or, wander up the secret path overlooking the beach and watch it all from above. You may even catch sight of ancient Native American shell middens here, embedded in the sides of the cliffs.

History Embedded in the Rocks

In the summer of 2003, I found this intriguing object embedded in the rock while wandering the hard-to-traverse rocky chunks of a hidden beach spot around Oswald West State Park (at the end of Falcon Cove Road).

Having seen the fossilized remnants of trees embedded deep in the basalt caves at Silver Creek State Park, I wondered if this was animal or vegetable. Luckily, one of the Oregon Coast's foremost experts on fossils happens to be our columnist. Guy DiTorrice clued me in.

He told me it was a "rock scallop, seen from the interior, with the hinge line on the left side. Take a wire brush to it and you'll see the high-sheen polish. The backside (still embedded) will be ruffled design, usually pocked with worm- and clam-drilled holes."

So, what is a "rock scallop?" I asked. I wondered if this had something to do with that old B-52's song, "Rock Lobster?" He said they are non-swimming scallops that attach themselves to rocks near the shore. He added the scallop is the logo shape used by Shell Oil Co.

The next logical question then is: how old might this fossil be? Guy said the brownish rock color indicates Astoria Sandstone, which "could be as young as 12 million years old, and as old as 17 million."

If that's not cool enough, Guy provided some interesting tips about their modern-day descendants. "They are great eating, have much larger muscles (the meat) than the commercially-harvested swimming scallop cousins."

DiTorrice is known as "Oregon Fossil Guy," leading tours around Central Coast beaches to show you how to find all kinds of fossils. www.OregonFossilGuy.com (541) 961-1762.



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In Awe of AstoriaASTORIA
Where the Columbia meets the Pacific, Land of Lewis & Clark and loads of atmosphere & history
Serenity in SeasideSEASIDE
The Promenade, Tillamook Head, family fun & broad, sandy beaches
Cavort in Cannon BeachCANNON BEACH
A mysterious lighthouse, upscale yet earthy, a huge monolith, fine eateries & an art mecca
Annihilating  Beauty of Nehalem BayNEHALEM BAY
Manzanita's beaches, Nehalem and Wheeler's quirky beauty; laid back Rockaway
Time Trip Around Tillamook BayTILLAMOOK BAY
Garibaldi, Barview, Bay City, Tillamook & an oceanfront ghost town
Triple the Pleasure in 3 CapesTHREE CAPES LOOP
The hidden secret of the coast: Cape Meares, a lighthouse, Oceanside, Netarts and Pacific City
Miles & miles of unbroken beaches, Cascade Head, Neskowin and many manmade attractions
Divine Depoe BayDEPOE BAY
A spouting horn downtown, freaky hidden cliffs and whales, whales, whales
Nature in NewportNEWPORT
Time-tripping Nye Beach, a bustling bayfront, marine science-central and two lighthouses
Staggering Seal RockWALDPORT / SEAL ROCK
Pristine, even secretive sands and wild geologic landmarks
Aargh, there's no alliteration with Yachats - but it IS unbelievableYACHATS
Constantly dramatic wave action, a mix of the rugged & upscale
Unsurpassable Upper LaneUPPER LANE COUNTY
25 miles of deserted beaches & oodles of wonders
Fine Times in FlorenceFLORENCE
A lighthouse, ancient bayfront and miles and miles of fluffy dunes


Cannon Beach Ecola Creek Lodge

Ecola Creek Lodge, Cannon Beach. In a quiet neighborhood, this longtime coastal landmark boasts a koi/lily pond, spacious lawns, gardens, stained glass windows and wireless internet – all in a slightly Victorian vibe. With some rooms pet friendly, you are a couple minutes walk from town and close to the beach. Guests also get access to a full recreational and exercise facility. Wild bunnies provide an adorable addition to your stay, making for an especially serene coastal experience. 208 5th St. www.cannonbeachlodge.com. 800-873-2749. 




STARFISH POINT is located on the Central Oregon Coast - in Newport - and offers only the finest in luxury condominium lodging. At Starfish Point, every unit is focused on the beauty of the sea and the beach.
All of the units boast two bedrooms, two bathrooms, designer kitchens, wireless broadband Internet, fireplaces, Jacuzzi’s and private decks - surrounding you in soothing relaxation. We have a friendly staff dedicated to high quality and superb customer service. 140 NW 48th Street, Newport. (541) 265-3751. (800) 870-7795.



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