Stay Eat Events Weather Beaches

Eerie, Mind-Bending Ghost Forests Appear Around Oregon Coast

Published 02/05/21 at 7:56 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Eerie, Mind-Bending Ghost Forests Appear Around Oregon Coast

(Oregon Coast) – Parts of the central Oregon coast are thick with a new – yet extremely old – sight. 4,000-year-old ghost forests have popped up in numerous sections as sand levels there get scoured out by winter storms and the recent king tides. (Above: ghost forest stump at Seal Rock)

These ghost forests are older and much more interesting than those that show year-round at Neskowin. Those at Neskowin are only 2,000 years old, while many of those found around the Newport area right now are 4,000 years or more in age. They are sometimes spooky in appearance, and for their reminder of what climate change is capable of. Then their origin story is a mind-bending trip back in time filled with interesting scientific twists and turns.

Latest Coastal Lodging News Alerts
In Seaside:
Includes exclusive listings; major specials now that winter is here
In Cannon Beach:
Includes rentals not listed anywhere else
In Manzanita, Wheeler, Rockaway Beach:
major specials for winter
In Pacific City, Oceanside:
Winter's enticing specials now
In Lincoln City:
Major winter specials now
In Depoe Bay, Gleneden Beach:
major specials this season
In Newport:
Look for many specials
In Waldport
New amenities offered; specials and tempting prices now
In Yachats, Florence
Big deals available; lodgings not listed anywhere else
Southern Oregon Coast Hotels / Lodgings
Reedsport to Brookings, places to stay; winter deals

What you’ll see are either small stumps that look especially ragged, some of which may be tilted on their side, or they’ll be large root systems lying half in the sand with no discernible tops to them. Ghost forests are not petrified forests – they’re not solid rock. They were created by some gradual change in the landscape where sand and / or soil enveloped them, killing them by choking off the oxygen. Then, paradoxically, it’s that same lack of oxygen that preserved them by keeping them safe from the decaying properties of exposure to air. They were not - as rumored on the internet - the result of a sudden subsidence event such as an earthquake. (See Explanations of Neskowin Ghost Forest Wrong, Say Oregon Coast Geologists)

Charlie Plybon, Oregon Policy Manager for Surfrider Foundation, reported seeing plenty in the Newport area.

“I’ve seen them in all the other usual spots south of South Beach and down past Ona - super exposed,” Plybon said. “The sand on most the beaches has been really scoured between the king tides, swells and stormwater (rain).”

This is referring to places like Thiel Creek / Holiday Beach (a secret spot just south of Newport) and Curtis St. at Seal Rock, among other places. Other reports have come in from Gleneden Beach as well.

Thiel Creek ghost forest

According to PSU geologist Dr. Curt Peterson, these ancient stumps in the Newport area are roughly 3.5 to a little over 4,000 years old. This comes from his paper co-authored with Roger Hart in the early 2000s called “Late-Holocene Buried Forests On the Oregon Coast.”

The Hart / Peterson paper also points out just about all other places you can find ghost forests on the Oregon coast, although some had been discovered later after the paper’s publication. Some of the most famous ghost forest finds are those at Arch Cape and Hug Point near Cannon Beach, although it’s uncertain if those showed up this year or not.

Those areas are definitely worth looking at. They also sometimes boast the oddity of the “red towers” - which are reddish objects of varying shapes and size that are the result of things clumping together beneath the sand and then getting colored red by oxidation. They disappear shortly after being exposed, however.

Sometimes, these are found at Moolack Beach just north of Newport.

Moolack is another area that ghost forests have likely showed up if those sections south of there have seen them emerge. Those at Moolack are of the root system variety, looking like giant octopuses in the sand.

Moolack Beach ghost forest, taken 1998

Other areas to look at along the Oregon coast: McPhillips Beach on the northern face of Cape Kiwanda, Netarts and Cape Lookout State Park can be plentiful. On the southern Oregon coast, look to Crook Point, Otter Rock, Nesika Beach, Blacklock Point Bandon, Whiskey Run and Five Mile Point.

Same beach, 2007. Ghost forests are starting to get uprooted and are threatened

According to Hart and Peterson, the oldest ghost forest is in the Coos Bay area at 7,000 years old, and the youngest at Netarts at just under 1,000 years. However, in 2019 Peterson told Oregon Coast Beach Connection there is also a set of ghost forests at Netarts that are over 80,000 years old. MORE PHOTOS BELOW:

In Search of More Oregon Coast Ghost Forests - Where to Find Ghost Forests

Oregon Coast Hotels for this - South Coast Hotels - Where to eat - Map - Virtual Tour


Tillicum Beach near Yachats

Arch Cape

More About Oregon Coast hotels, lodging.....

More About Oregon Coast Restaurants, Dining.....

Coastal Spotlight

LATEST Related Oregon Coast Articles

Great Coastal Gale of '07 Tore Into Oregon Coast 15 Years Ago - Video
The storm changed parts of the region forever. History, Bandon, Coos Bay, Newport, Lincoln City, Manzanita, Cannon Beach, Seaside, Astoria
How Storms - Even Solar Storms - May Affect Whales on Oregon / Washington Coast
Why do they disappear? Does it disturb them at all? Marine sciences
Attending Seaside Aquarium This Month Helps Feed the Hungry on Oregon Coast -...
Patrons pay admission to the aquarium with two cans of food per person. Seaside events
Warm Sunsets to Raucous Oregon Coast Storms: Upclose at Cannon Beach's Schoon...
One of the major highlights is that beachfront lawn. Cannon Beach hotels, lodging reviews
Washington Coast Holidays Include Crab Pot Tree, Santa with Pirates, Music, Food
Holiday happs from Ilwaco up through Westport. Washington coast events
Famed Holiday Show Tradition Back on Oregon Coast, at Newport Performing Arts...
The Christmas Show! is finally back, Dec. 16 and 17. Newport events
Cyber Monday for Oregon Coast Too: Giving the Beach for Christmas
Give a night or two at the coast, or books, hoodies, T's. weather
Orcas Spotted Again on N. Oregon Coast - First Time This Pod Recorded Here
A pod of four were photographed on November 23. Marine sciences

Back to Oregon Coast

Contact Advertise on
All Content, unless otherwise attributed, copyright Unauthorized use or publication is not permitted