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Leech Lane Access and Beyond the Arch at N. Oregon Coast's Arch Cape

Published 2/20/24 at 3:55 a.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Leech Lane Access and Beyond the Arch at N. Oregon Coast's Arch Cape

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – Some parts of the Oregon coast aren't meant to be explored much. Nature has other ideas. (All photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

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Such seems the case with the Leech Lane access at Arch Cape, the main beach access and only one for the tiny town that's readily visible. If you're just on the northern side of the Arch Cape Tunnel, this small access road flits by quickly. A mere 200 feet of gravel road takes you to this thin stretch of beach with the sign designating Leech Lane and that it's part of the Oregon Coast Trail.

There's a bench there that's perfect for soaking in the mood.

Tides don't always let you on the beach: there are plenty of times in the winter where Arch Cape's sands don't really exist. If you think those rules are strict, the small bit of land on the other side of the cape – which actually gave Arch Cape its name – is an even sterner guardian. That blob of rock sitting at the southern edge of the Leech Lane access hides another world. On that other side lies the arch that the community is named for along with plenty of tidepools.

This is a fairly normal state for the Leech Lane access: the tide covers the entrance to the other side

As summer's high sand levels rise, so do your chances of checking out the other side. Other than that, somewhat lower tides and certainly very calm conditions are the only way you're getting there. That little chunk of space between the rock and the slope of the basalt cape is a meager one, often covered by raging breakers and completely inaccessible. In fact, the beach at Leech Lane is sometimes all tidal chaos and no sands. Making these conditions more dangerous is the layout of mostly large, rounded and polished stones, which are extremely hard to walk on much less run on if a sneaker decides to power up the small slope. See North Arch Cape, Map

If the tides are low enough after storm seasons have scoured out all the sand, then you might be able to get there – but not frequently. However, there is a wondrous world of tidepool life lighting up this little section, bursting with color and complex shapes. All the chunks of basalt littering the area serve to create quite the ecosystem.

Fun Fact: Arch Cape was originally called Cannon Beach. How Cannon Beach Got Its Name

If sand levels are high enough, they'll keep the tides out and you can cross over. There, you'll see the great arch. Yet what many don't realize is that there were once three arches here: a gigantic structure with three big gaps once occupied the spot, big enough that even ambulances would cross here back when Highway 101 was as yet unbuilt (that happened in the '30s).

Courtesy Cannon Beach History Museum

It once looked like this before it fell apart about the '40s or so.

That crumbling, however, is what gave this point all the rocky boulders and structures that are now occupied by life.

To add a bit of intrigue, those higher sand levels cover up much of the rocks that are exposed the rest of the year. However, the tidepools migrate with it. They move to higher ground here, next to Arch Cape's Leech Lane access. Nature maintains its magic. See Arch Cape Cliffs, Beach

On the other side of this point – especially if sand levels get large enough – you can find a long stretch of beach that ends all the way at rather secretive Falcon Cove Road and its beach. This is truly remarkable as the vast majority of the year you can't go far around that little beach access to the north. In fact, in much of winter you can't go down there at all.

At the Leech Lane access, make sure you pay attention to the signage and do not block the way in: you could get towed even if an emergency vehicle isn't trying to get through. There are places to park on the side of Leech Lane. Be extremely cautious on all of Arch Cape: it's awfully unforgiving.

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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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