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Mysteries of N. Oregon Coast's Cannon Beach: Bunker, Lighthouse, Singing Sands

Published 06/10/21 at 4:30 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Mysteries of N. Oregon Coast's Cannon Beach: Bunker, Lighthouse, Singing Sands

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – From an enigmatic but cajoling lighthouse just offshore, to some engaging science and history, Cannon Beach has many levels of intrigue below all the stunning attractions and beaches. Here's a look at three aspects of the area you'll likely find surprising.

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse


Courtesy Seaside Aquarium

Sitting a mile offshore, she's known as Terrible Tilly – and she just may actually be a terrible person. Initial construction in the late 1870s on the lighthouse meant dealing with horrific accidents and at least one drowning, enough incidents that there was a public outcry to stop building it. Men working on the precarious blob of rock started out waiting for duty housed aboard a ship, to keep them sequestered away from the public and media coverage of all the danger.

The sentinel was lit in 1881, and then came tense tours of duty manning it. Storms were merciless in lashing it and one in the ‘30s caused some real damage. After decades of adventures, the lighthouse was retired in the late ‘50s, eventually becoming a wildlife refuge and a columbarium – housing the ashes of the dead. More Tillamook Rock Lighthouse

World War II Bunker


Photo courtesy Seaside Aquarium's Tifany Boothe

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If you're hiking along Tillamook Head from the Cannon Beach side, about 1.5 miles into it you may run into the remains of a World War II bunker – a crusty chunk of concrete covered in moss and other plants and often filled with bats (so you really don't want to go in there).

This was a radar station only used for about a year and half or so during the second world war, and it's only a tiny chunk of what was a much larger base called J-23, and the radar was known as SCR-588. This construct held some of the radar equipment that kept a lookout for enemy aircraft, but it also helped hold the 30-foot-high radar antennae. J-23 came complete with barracks, a mess hall and other buildings. It utilized some 50 to 100 men.

Bits of track and concrete chunks still dot this section of the north Oregon coast headland's wilderness. The Mysterious World War II Bunker Atop Oregon Coast's Tillamook Head

Singing Sands of Cannon Beach

Whether or not Cannon Beach has ever had true singing sands is a bit up in the air, but bits and pieces from the town's history and some of its names reference the wild and strange noise.

Actual singing sands usually only happens on dunes, on rare occasion at the Oregon National Dunes Recreation Area between Florence and Coos Bay. It's more of a singing-like noise, or sometimes a kind of roar or oddball violin.

On the north Oregon coast, there's more of a squeaking noise that pops up now and then, at the town's southern edges or down around Arch Cape and Arcadia Beach. This noise – and singing sands – comes from a specific set of conditions that have to coincide, involving the right size of sand grains and the right humidity, among other things.

There have been no modern-day reports of singing sands, yet it's possible it happened decades ago. However, Man's interference with nature likely changed that dynamic. In any case, squeaking sands here are documented – and it's a kick in the pants to experience. Oregon Coast's Weird Singing Sands: Cannon Beach, South Coast and Elsewhere | Video --- MORE PHOTOS BELOW

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Photo courtesy Cannon Beach Surf

Photo OPRD: the type of antenna used by the SCR-588 radar system.

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