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Obvious and the Hidden at Cape Kiwanda: Deep Inside the Oregon Coast Landmark

Published 05/08/22 at 2:55 AM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Obvious and the Hidden at Cape Kiwanda: Deep Inside the Oregon Coast Landmark

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(Pacific City, Oregon) – Where the Three Capes Tour begins (or ends, depending on how you think of it), the southern end starts off with one of these famed capes. In fact, if you're heading up Highway 101 on the north Oregon coast, just before that fork leading west or north, Cape Kiwanda's Haystack Rock suddenly looms in the distance. (All photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

The rock, Kiwanda's sort of geologic companion, juts up over the trees, almost appearing to float. It seems massive and even a little foreboding from this angle – but it's a brief glimpse. Soon you've ducked into the forest along the road to Pacific City and it doesn't emerge again until you're in town and can see the bulk of Cape Kiwanda itself. It's just one of many subtle surprises in this area.

If you're thinking this name of Haystack Rock is familiar, yes, there's an even more famous one at Cannon Beach. The little startler the Oregon coast has in store for you is that there's a third one down in Bandon.

Once in Pacific City, the natural wonders spring up all over.

There's plenty here that's obvious: the wondrously sweeping cliffs of Cape Kiwanda, tidepools at low tide, and the numerous quaint shops and eateries. Get up on top of the cape and it's like a vast alien landscape – like maybe Star Trek: Strange New Worlds should start filming here. It's beautiful and freaky at the same time.

Something few know: Cape Kiwanda is disappearing. But its rate of erosion would be much worse were it not for Haystack Rock. It deflects some of the wave action. Just What is Cape Kiwanda on Oregon's Coast? And Why It's Falling Apart

Kiwanda's sand dune top towers over everything, with ragged, wind-worn trees scattered over this monstrosity. Fun but odd geologic fact: these massive sands are fed by the big dunes complex to the north at Sand Lake.

These days, the cape is a bit more fenced off than it used to be, a safety measure implemented by state parks because of all the accidents incurred. People couldn't stop jumping the barriers that were already there. However, the new fencing layout allows for awe-inspiring views and photo opps than before, letting you catch glimpses of some of the cape's more dramatic textures and shapes. New Beach Driving Restrictions, Fencing At Oregon Coast's Cape Kiwanda

Head north along the cape and you'll see the complexity of the place: a series of islands that are chunks of the cape that have broken off.

Whale watching atop Kiwanda is also prime.

However, for less populated fun and frolic, hit the unmarked State Park one mile north of the Kiwanda's parking lot (a small road darting down the hill on the west side of the highway.) There, you'll find a small outcropping with basalt columns that look a bit like ruins, and a few indentations in the rock to make for great cuddling or hiding from the wind.

In winter, if sand levels get low enough, you can see the eerie-looking remnants of a ghost forest here, small stumps some 4,000 years old.

Then, for some real alone time, walk south, towards the much less-seen north side of the cape, and encounter more natural wonders along this immaculate stretch of sand. From down below, those islands form a kind of canyon filled with chaotic, mesmerizing sea water.

This part of Cape Kiwanda is a truly singular experience: but it requires almost a mile worth of walking.

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