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More Lurks Beneath N. Oregon Coast's Hug Point and Around It Than You Know

Published 05/18/23 at 4:22 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

More Lurks Beneath N. Oregon Coast's Hug Point and Around It Than You Know

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(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – One major punch of scenic splendor after another occupies that complex stretch of Oregon coast between Cannon Beach and Manzanita, as the road winds through dense forests and glimpses of remote sands or dazzling waves. Lots is compacted into one relatively small area. (All photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

One of these hidden treasures isn't so hidden at all. Hug Point and Hug Point State Recreation Site is one of the most popular spots on the entire coastline and for good reason. Yet there's lots lurking beneath and around it that either you don't normally see or you don't understand what you're looking at. Indeed, Hug Point tells a story – well, really a bunch of stories. And some of them go back thousands to millions of years ago.

Amid all the obvious wonders like the caves, the funky old road or that enchanting little waterfall, there's weird stuff embedded in the walls.

These features are sandstone, and like many other blobs of rock on the Oregon coast they can contain fossils. But these are different: there's little chunks of petrified forest trapped in time in those rocks. Periodically, they're just lying around, too (which is when it's legal to grab them). Finding them in the rockface is rare.

They essentially wound up in there about 18 million years ago, part of a much larger complex of sandstone called the Astoria Formation, which spreads beneath the majority of the northern Oregon coast and part of the Washington coast.

Also quite old but entirely hidden beneath the scenic playground is a ghost forest – a clump of tree stumps some 4,000 years old. These only show up in winter, when sand levels get low enough, which only happens every two, three years or so. Even then it's usually just briefly.

These, along with those at Arch Cape have been carbon dated, looked at by the same team that figured out how ghost forests on the beach actually happened. Hart and Peterson examined just about every spot on the coastline with them (over 40 areas) and discovered it was not because of an earthquake – but rather a slow change in environment. See the real story Explanations of Neskowin Ghost Forest Wrong, Say Oregon Coast Geologists

The trippy thing about Hug Point is that you'd have to spend about a year here to really see it all. That's because seasons change and bring different sights here. Extremely low sand levels in winter also let something truly odd show up: red towers. These are surreal chunks of reddish clay-like material that bond beneath the sands all the time and we don't even know it. Until wild conditions scour all the sands, however.

Those little caves here – more like mere indentations at times – and the big cave hold some freaky surprises. You may notice a large, maybe even scream-inducing bug that looks rather prehistoric. Their name doesn't help, either: northern sea roach. You may also see them lurking on or behind logs.

Courtesy Seaside Aquarium

Don't murder them, however. They're great for the beach environment.

That ancient road (which was built over 100 years ago) is quite the historic remnant itself. But it too hides a secret: a little knob made of brass that bears some geographical info from Pacific Power & Light. An intriguing mystery popped up when Oregon Coast Beach Connection contacted the company to find out what that was about. After doing some research, they responded with a firm “unsure.” But they did guess it was originally used by the power company in the '20s as a survey marker. For what, however, is another mystery. There are no power lines within Hug Point or anywhere near it.


There's some interesting human history besides that remnant of the road. Note the triangular slab sitting on the outside of the road, near the cave. There's a series of indentations. Some of this is just tidal melee, but some are the remnants of ancient handholds carved into it by native tribes. Pictures from the 1930's shows these as still more pronounced, but now they're whittled down a ways. Before this rock was blasted out, a whole series of these went up the rockface to the top, basically a crude ladder. They could be hundreds of years old or older.

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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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