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The Most Dangerous Place on Oregon Coast: the Jetties

Published 09/21/20 at 9:41 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

The Most Dangerous Place on Oregon Coast: the Jetties

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(Oregon Coast) – Almost every year something seems to happen on these man-made, rocky promontories, and it doesn’t take heavy surf conditions. They are what one Oregon official called an “attractive nuisance.” With each storm season, it’s a good time to reiterate that jetties – all jetties – along the Oregon coast are a big danger.

Robert Smith, a safety education coordinator with Oregon State Parks and Recreation, said jetties pose special problems during stormy conditions. These areas are not the jurisdiction of state parks, since the jetties are built and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, but Smith did have safety advice for those thinking about playing around on these boulder-covered structures.

“We would love it if they would find other places to play around,” Smith said.

Smith said you have to understand the power of the ocean.

“The jetties are put there to protect the harbors from the power of the ocean,” Smith said. “They are an attractive nuisance. Way too many times have people been washed away off these things. It happens too often.”


Rockaway Beach / Nehalem Bay jetty

There are warning signs placed on the jetties by the Corps, but Newport’s south jetty is a bit more accessible than many because of close by parking. Others, like those at Warrenton or Rockaway Beach still cajole climbers in spite of obviously raging conditions. The jetties at Coos Bay and Winchester Bay can also be problematic, certainly slippery. Oregon's Adventure Coast (Coos Bay's visitor organization) recommends playing elsewhere.

To further illustrate the deadly potential of these jetties, Smith pointed out the boulders that make up the structures are often around 2300 pounds. Yet the ocean moves these quite frequently.


Newport

Almost a decade ago, Newport’s visitor center began urging everyone to keep off the jetties entirely, although watching the waves from a distance can be spectacular.

“The north and south jetties are also especially pummeled, although you have to stay clear of them,” the center said in a press release. “Luckily, the broad sandy areas on both sides of the bay mouth let you keep far from them but see all the action. Do not go on the jetties.”

Other beaches to look out for in stormy conditions include small cove-like ones, like Short Sand near Manzanita, Oceanside, Hug Point near Cannon Beach, or some of the smaller ones between Florence and Yachats. There are plenty of these on the southern Oregon coast as well. Those small sand areas at Bandon and certainly Shore Acres State Park by Coos Bay can pose significant dangers.

“Any place where the power of the waves is concentrated is not my first choice,” Smith said. “Any place where there are cliffs and you can’t make a quick exit should a big wave come up.”

Smith said you can run into trouble even on a long, sandy beach, but it’s less likely. Still, if conditions are truly stormy, stay off even the broad beaches. Two women were washed out to sea several years ago by a sneaker wave in the Gleneden Beach area, which is fairly broad, but enclosed on the eastern side by tall cliffs that won’t allow you a quick way out.

These warnings also include even somewhat heavy conditions and not just stormy ones. Sneaker waves abound in even slightly high surf.

During storms, Smith said to keep up high, away from surf, rocky areas and sand.

“Stay up and away,” Smith said. “We recommend staying up high and off the beaches.”

More Safety Reminders

- Stay off logs under ANY circumstances, as water can lift them up and turn them over onto you

- Stay off rocky areas near the sea during heavy conditions, not just stormy ones, as large waves can toss up logs and other debris onto you

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