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N. Oregon Coast's Cape Kiwanda Develops Dangerous Sinkhole - Video

Published 01/24/23 at 5:50 AM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

N. Oregon Coast's Cape Kiwanda Develops Dangerous Sinkhole - Video

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(Pacific City, Oregon) – A sizable sink hole is opening up on one of the Oregon coast's biggest attractions: Cape Kiwanda may be showing signs of wear and tear. (Photo Oregon State Parks, showing the sinkhole just before it got bigger)

Oregon State Parks and Recreation (OPRD) announced Monday that a 20-foot-wide sink hole has started in a portion of sand in the lower northwest corner of the structure, reaching 15 feet deep. Park staff responded rather quickly and set up a visible warning barrier around it.

“We ask that visitors respect this barrier and all park safety barriers,” OPRD said in a release. “Also, please keep pets on leashes and children away from the edges.”

Park Manager Jason Elkins said the cape is a very dynamic place, and you should be aware of your surroundings here. Elkins said to stay clear of dangerous and that certainly includes this one, which is kind of a wild card to state park authorities. They're not sure what's going to happen here next.

While most damage to the cape occurs because of harsh weather, this sinkhole is something new.

Elkins said people are going to be curious and will want to see this for themselves, especially now that it's gotten so much media coverage.

In fact, Oregon Coast Beach Connection suggests to stay much farther away than where the barriers are currently placed. Cape Kiwanda has become increasingly unstable in recent years, with one very large chunk in the northern section falling apart just within the last two years.


Photo OPRD

OPRD noted in a press release that Kiwanda is an outlier on the Oregon coast, in the geologic category sense. It's not made of basalt like most of the headlands on the northern half of the region. Those take sometimes hundreds or thousands of years to wear down or cut through.

Cape Kiwanda is made of a much softer sandstone, which erodes much more easily, say regional geologsts. See Cape Kiwanda geology.

It's actually made of a slightly harder mix of sandstone than Jump-Off Joe in Newport, about an hour to the south. Jump-Off Joe began crumbling even more heavily two years ago and is now considered unsafe. Sadly, this could become the future for parts of Cape Kiwanda, and maybe all of it someday.

“While any natural area carries risk, enjoying Cape Kiwanda safely requires visitors to pay special attention,” OPRD said.

The agency said this hole could open up at any minute – and in fact others could appear.

“Even though the spot is marked with barriers, this hole could change at any moment, and others could appear. If you see something that concerns you, leave the area and report it to Cape Lookout State Park staff at 503-842-4981. In an emergency, call 911.”

OPRD will be examining the area closely in the next few days and is hoping to find the cause.


You can see how drastically the cape changed just in 16 years by the photo of Duck Bill Rock above and the giant “ape face” back in 2000, then below how they looked in 2016 (just before Duck Bill was vandalized).

The rate that Cape Kiwanda is eroding has likely increased over the centuries, and that certainly seems the case now. Yet regional geologists, like Ernest Lund back in the '70s, say that it should've eroded thousands of years ago, but Haystack Rock has actually protected it from fiercer winter wave action. See Just What is Cape Kiwanda on Oregon's Coast? And Why It's Falling Apart

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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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