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One Week Later, Rare Sand Shapes Atop Oregon Coast Cape Are Fading But Evident

Published 04/23/23 at 6:52 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

One Week Later, Rare Sand Shapes Atop Oregon Coast Cape Are Fading But Evident

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(Pacific City, Oregon) – A week ago Saturday (on April 15), Portlander Pilar French was exploring her favorite area again, Cape Kiwanda, when she spotted a feature on a dune she had not seen before. Posting them on Facebook, they caused a little stir in the office of Oregon Coast Beach Connection. We, in turn, asked PSU geologist Scott Burns what caused this, thinking this will be an interesting but small tidbit. (Photos courtesy Pilar French)

Instead, Burns essentially flipped out: he'd never seen this kind of set of designs before. After consulting other geologists at the university, it turned out this was new for the region. This was a rare thing, to see these kinds of ridges so close to each other – not to mention it's really odd that patterns like this are formed on a dune, period.

French and the Portland geologists had essentially discovered something new on the Oregon coast. It even required a new name: “linear earthflow,” they called it. See the full article New, Rare Sand Feature Atop Cape Kiwanda Wows Oregon Coast Geologists - Video

One thing Burns expressed was that this was going to be temporary. This design needed a constant flow of rain (along with the bonding agent – in this case silt) to stay around. Once the rain stopped, this would dry up and blow away.

So what's happening with this Oregon coast oddity a week later?

French went back this weekend and found that surprisingly it was not all gone yet. In fact, the lines had taken on a new look. Clearly, they had dried up quite a bit, but some of the ridges were still visible at the top. However, the lower parts had widened and flattened out, and now there's a bit more of a surreal look to the whole sandy complex. [Complete Guide: Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area]


Last week: the faint traces of shapes below the lobes are old ridges that have eroded

“It was not raining when I took these,” French told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “The icing was dry, so to speak.”

That dune is in a rather remote section of the headland, French said, so it's not easy to find. The story on this seriously exploded last week, but it appeared not too many headed out to look for the new find. It was fairly intact still, French noted.

“Someone walked through it and around it,” French said. “I could tell by footprints but no one was there when I went back.”


This week

While this is a new discovery of a rare thing, according to Burns and his colleagues, there's plenty of evidence it had happened before in this spot. These ridges had rounded, fatter parts at the bottom, which were faded versions of previous ridges. So, it had occurred before and it's likely to happen again.

Now, the fattening and flattening of these recent linear earthflow ridges helps display what Burns said was underneath them. You can see that action plainly in its current state. See how this works New, Rare Sand Feature Atop Cape Kiwanda Wows Oregon Coast Geologists - Video

All this means there is something rare occurring periodically on the Oregon coast headland – and no one knew until now. This also brings some hope to those who may want to see it for themselves. However, you'll have to brave pretty wet weather to find it.

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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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