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The Ghosts Near Waldport / Seal Rock Beneath These Oregon Coast Sands - Video

Published 07/12/22 at 5:39 AM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

The Ghosts Near Waldport / Seal Rock Beneath These Oregon Coast Sands - Video

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(Waldport, Oregon) – Two fun but unassuming beach spots near Waldport and Newport are actually even more fascinating than you may think. On the central Oregon coast, along a stretch of highway lined by wind-bent trees, as you pass between Newport and Waldport there's some engaging geologic science lurking beneath those sands. (Above: ghost forest near Seal Rock, Curtis St. You can even see 18 million-year-old bedrock in the background.All photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

Just south of Newport's South Beach, you'll soon encounter Lost Creek State Recreation Site. A few more miles south you bump into Seal Rock State Wayside. With both, there's more than meets the eye – especially in some winters when rarely-seen ghost forests are revealed.

Lost Creek is a pleasant respite of central Oregon coast sands, with a wide beach that's soft and full of selfie moments in the making. Seal Rock is the tiny town and bundle of seastacks along with other geologic wonders, a place that's truly dramatic during winter storms. Parts of it are soft and sandy while others are craggy and even surreal. BELOW: VIDEO OF THE LOST CREEK GHOST FOREST

Just north of Seal Rock, at the Curtis St. exit, is where the ghostie fun begins. It's here and at Lost Creek where some winters reveal these 4,000-year-old secrets. But not every year. Many winter seasons, the sand levels just don't get low enough in these two spots.

There are also occasionally ghost forests at Thiel Creek, a hidden access just south of South Beach.

What's happened here?

You have to look at the research of Dr. Curt Peterson from Portland State University and Roger Hart about 2006. What they discovered was that about 4,000 years ago, a forest here got slowly swallowed up by sand and/or swamp conditions of some sort – slow, in human terms, but rather quickly in geologic terms. That could be a few years or a few decades.

Because of this getting swallowed up by sand, it choked the life out of the trees but preserved them by keeping them out of the elements. They remained beneath the sands of Lost Creek and Curtis St. until sand levels in recent decades started shifting more drastically in winter.

The result are two rather distinctive ghost forests, often different from the pilings-like stumps at Neskowin or the flattened out octopus-like shapes at Sunset Bay on the southern Oregon coast (near Coos Bay), or at Moolack Beach in Newport. You see these gnarled, hunched shapes dotting the beach, which look a lot like rocks, but they are wood.

The Curtis St. stumps look a tad more tortured than even those up north in Arch Cape. In the case of Lost Creek, they look downright puzzling – like an invention of artist Roger Dean, who did the Yes album covers.

Sadly, so far no publication in the northwest region has looked to Hart and Peterson about the origin of beach ghost forests, nor any real geologist, and they continue writing the same wrong theory over and over: that they came from a major quake. With sand-bound ghost forests, that's just not true. The younger ghost stumps found in most Oregon coast estuaries (which are harder to recognize) did come from that, or at least a major tsunami event. See Explanations of Neskowin Ghost Forest Wrong, Say Oregon Coast Geologists

Sunset Bay ghost forest, courtesy Brent Lerwill

Year-round ghost forest stumps that are thousands of years old can be seen at Sunset Bay, Neskowin and an example on display at Newport's Beverly Beach access.

Those 300-year-old or so examples slightly inland are harder to recognize but plentiful.

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