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The 'Orphan' of Neskowin on N. Oregon Coast

Published 3/16/24 at 4:35 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Neskowin, Oregon) – Tucked away behind two different chunks of north Oregon coast forest and one big headland, Neskowin is like a little hotspot hiding in plain sight. It's an increasingly popular resort destination, with a cozy, sleepy quality and yet a slight air of the upscale in some ways. (All photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

And it's home to an orphan – a really big one.

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Along Neskowin's miles of beach, there's an interesting mixture of coarse and fine sands that line the area, and there's a calm and introspective feel all along its length. The place gives off a vibe.

Yet there's a twist, however: a couple of them, really. Underneath that looming presence of Cascade Head, two incredibly ancient features lie. There is, of course, the famed Neskowin Ghost Forest (but don't forget there's dozens of other ghost forests along the Oregon coast). Then there's Proposal Rock.

If Proposal Rock and the moody Cascade Head above look alike, that's because they're related. The famed blob was actually once a part of Cascade Head but eroded away from it and then was whittled down.

Scientists – like geologist Al Niem (now retired from OSU) – say it's an old remnant. Some geologists sometimes refer to such things as an "orphan" - though it's not an offical term. That erosion is what puts it under that category. It's made of the same 36-million-year-old stuff.

Another surprise: this is because Cascade Head was once a volcano. Proposal Rock is separated from the headland by a quarter mile and it is a mere tiny fragment left over from the larger rock.

“Cascade Head was a submarine volcano, formed approximately 36 to 38 million years ago, based upon what we call radiometric dating of the lava rocks,” Niem told Oregon Coast Beach Connection.

Imagine how much time and oceanic forces it took to destroy that much of the headland: it's mind-boggling. Extinct Volcano of Oregon Coast: Cascade Head's Fiery Surprise

On top of Proposal Rock, more surprises lurk. At lower tides, you can hop up onto the top of the big blob at the tideline and do some exploring. There's a small path up top which wanders through the brush. However, be extremely careful here: someone had to be rescued by the Coast Guard in 2023 when they went too far around the rock's edges. Two Rescues on N. Oregon Coast, One Murder Investigation

Don't be surprised to see a bald eagle now and then on the treetops as well. Watch the tide carefully as well. You don't want to get stuck.

There's other curiosities about Proposal Rock as well: see the virtual tour link.

Fun Fact: Cape Perpetua near Yachats was also a volcano about the same time period Heceta Head / Cliffs Near Florence: All Come from Oregon Coast Volcano

The other ancients there are spring chickens by comparison: really only about 1900 years old, according to carbon dating.

These ragged old stumps at first glance look like the leftovers of a manmade pier. The ghost forest is a stand of trees that were slowly swallowed up by the area turning into a swamp of sorts, killing off the trees. Later, sand levels rose around it and covered them, preserving them.

Contrary to popular belief, the ghost forest did not happen because of an earthquake. See the real scientific explanation, according to the researchers who actually studied them closely: See Explanations of Neskowin Ghost Forest Wrong, Say Oregon Coast Geologists

Hotels in Lincoln City, Neskowin - Where to eat - Lincoln City Maps and Virtual Tours



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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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