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Fencing Moved Atop Oregon Coast Landmark as Cape Kiwanda Sinkhole Dangers Grow

Published 10/25/23 at 4:23 a.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Fencing Moved Atop Oregon Coast Landmark as Cape Kiwanda Sinkholes Widen

(Pacific City, Oregon) – Sands aren't the only thing shifting atop one popular Oregon coast landmark. (Photo Oregon State Parks)

Cape Kiwanda, at the southern end of the Three Capes Tour, has some major holes developing on its northwestern corner, and Oregon coast officials are taking it even more seriously. A report by two geologists released last month showed how bad the sinkholes really are, and it paints a sad but interesting future for the sandstone headland.

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One of the main points of the study made by Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) is that the fencing in the area be moved considerably to protect the public.

That recommendation was followed fairly quickly by Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), with fences moved back even farther than suggested. See Oregon Coast Study: Cape Kiwanda Sinkholes Breaking It Into 'Islands'; More Fencing Needed

Stephanie Knowlton, a spokesman for OPRD, said the state agency erred on the side of caution.

OPRD: the two sinkholes earlier this year

“The key recommendation in the report was for OPRD to move the constructed fence back about 50 feet,” Knowlton told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “We moved it back a little farther than that earlier this month.”

The report was written by DOGAMI geologists Laura Gabe and Jonathan Allan, who found much or all of the cause of the sinkholes – which started developing at the beginning of 2023.

The first sinkhole was alarming on its own, but a few months later the second one started developing, and slowly they both inched towards become one giant hole. Safety fences went up immediately, and the process repeated as soon as state park rangers were made aware of changes. Even at the beginning, geologist Tom Horning – who has also studied the cape extensively – told Oregon Coast Beach Connection this likely meant more of the cape would crumble. He also predicted this situation would create a new sea stack or two.

OPRD: the first sinkhole in January

Gabe and Allan's report even furthered that opinion, saying not only would chunks fall away to separate from the headland and form a new sea stack, but waves would cut yet another channel through another area just north of the sinkholes.

“The sinkholes continue to change,” Knowlton said. “They filled with sand over the summer, and now they’re starting to open up again. It’s part of the dynamic landscape of the coast and a good reminder to follow all safety signs and barriers.”

Now with new fencing, OPRD says the area is safe, and it is a historic spectacle you may want to see for yourself.

“The coast is beautiful and ever-changing,” Knowlton said. “The fact we can see this up close from the park is a special experience, and we invite people to come take a look from the safer side of the fence.”


Allan and Gabe's work included documenting the size of the sinkholes, which have grown since they did their stint atop Kiwanda.

As Horning has pointed out to Oregon Coast Beach Connection in the past, there are caves beneath the cape, which are getting larger as the sea gouges out more sandstone. Allan and Gabe found those as well, discovering at least two were connected.

Also see Cape Kiwanda Almost Had Nuclear Power Plant: Bizarre Oregon Coast State Park History

Yet interestingly enough, they found the caves likely had nothing to do with the crumbling of this area. Instead, it was probably water from above that seeped through the sand dune, into the interior of the rock, and for some reason the chemical composition of this part of the cape was susceptible to dissolving.

The paper is full of surprises about the Oregon coast landmark, including how it once was connected to Haystack Rock just offshore.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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