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The Miocene Oregon Coast: Ancient (Almost-Dino) History All Around You

Published 10/29/2018 at 4:33 PM PDT - Updated 10/29/2018 at 4:35 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

The Miocene Oregon Coast: Ancient History All Around You

(Oregon Coast) - If you look close enough at some rocky walls on the Oregon coast, you’ll see startlingly strange stuff like this: intriguing fossils embedded in the rocks. They are all over the place. In fact, as you walk along these pleasant, soft sands, you’re often either treading on ancient history (buried in the bedrock beneath) or strolling past them in rocky cliff faces.

While there are no dinosaur fossils found along the Oregon coast, there are intriguing finds all around you from periods close to that ancient age.

This particular example above comes from the side of Cape Falcon, in a hidden beach spot known as Falcon Cove.

This particular section of the beach is rarely accessible: usually it’s covered in insane wave action. But occasionally in summer and early fall – when coastal weather is at its finest – calmer conditions prevail. Higher sand levels also keep the raging tides at bay.

Amble your way over large, ouch-inducing cobblestones (you run the risk of twisting your ankle) and you’ll find a few of these ancient wonders. It’s illegal to pick things out of the rocks, so take only pictures.

It turns out this is a rock scallop – fossilized, according to Guy DiTorrice, a fossil and agate expert who used to run fossil tours on the Oregon coast.

“It’s a rock scallop, seen from the interior, with the hinge line on the left side,” he said. “Take a wire brush to it and you'll see the high-sheen polish. The backside (still embedded) will be ruffled design, usually pocked with worm- and clam-drilled holes."

Rock scallops are not so named because they’re embedded in rock. Rather, when alive they attach themselves to rocks, DiTorrice said. They don’t swim like other scallops.

It’s interesting to note the scallop is the logo shape used by Shell Oil Co.

Just how old might this fossil be? DiTorrice said the brownish rock color indicates Astoria Sandstone, which "could be as young as 12 million years old, and as old as 17 million."

If that's not cool enough, Guy provided some interesting tips about their modern-day descendants. "They are great eating, have much larger muscles (the meat) than the commercially-harvested swimming scallop cousins."

Even more bizarre finds lurk at Fogarty Beach, on the central Oregon coast, near Depoe Bay.

This little state park, south of Gleneden Beach, hides a bundle of wacky objects. Depending on sand levels, you’ll find freaky caves, chunks of rocks with tons of ancient creatures still inside, and geologic shapes that defy description. Not to mention, the dark sand grains here are extraordinarily large – enormous by grains of sand standards. They actually hurt to walk on barefoot.

Then there is that touch of Jurassic Park at Fogarty, with the fossil of a large scallop called a petcen. It too is around 15 to 20 million years old, according to local experts like Laura Joki (owner of Rock Your World in Lincoln City) and state geologist Dr. Jonathan Allan. These are the ancient relatives of the sea scallops we know today. At one point all those millions of years ago, they were found all over this ancient world.

More photos below of other puzzling rocky finds along the Oregon coast.





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