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Eerie Pre-Histories of Seal Rock, Central Oregon Coast Aflame

Published 06/03/22 at 7:45 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Eerie Pre-Histories of Seal Rock, Central Oregon Coast Aflame

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(Seal Rock, Oregon) – Everything has an origin story, just like superheroes. But on the Oregon coast, the beginnings of certain landmarks can be spooky, even downright frightening. (All photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

Down between Waldport and Newport, the rocky landmarks known as Seal Rocks (or more commonly Seal Rock) definitely have some fiery beginnings.

It all goes back some 15 million years or so, when massive lava flows spewed out from what is now the Idaho / Oregon border, sizzling their way across hundreds of miles, well beyond what was then the coastline and into the sea. Called the Columbia Basalts (because they also formed the basics of the Gorge), they left behind major landmarks like Tillamook Head, Cape Meares, Cape Foulweather (and the bulk of Depoe Bay), going as far south as Seal Rock.

Seal Rock is not only special because of its incendiary beginnings, but it's also the farthest south on the Oregon coast these lava flows came.

Then, fast forward millions of year to just about the time ancient peoples were occupying the area. If you head over to the Curtis St. access in Seal Rock, and under the right conditions in winter you'll find something else a little eerie. The ragged, tortured shapes of ghost forests lie underneath.

The theory goes that about 4,000 years ago, a forest here got slowly swallowed up by sand and/or swamp conditions of some sort – slow, in human terms, but rather quickly in geologic terms. That could be a few years or a few decades.

Because of these getting swallowed up by sand, it choked the life out of the trees but preserved them by keeping them out of the elements, especially oxygen.

The result is this ghost forest, which sometimes appears in the Seal Rock area during winters when sand levels get low enough. You see these gnarled, hunched shapes dotting the beach, which look a lot like rocks, but they are wood.

The theory that these, like the ones at Neskowin, happened because of a sudden earthquake and abrupt drop of the land has been proven incorrect.

In any case, these ghost forests are always a wild and weird discovery. These at the Curtis St. access at Seal Rock are much rarer, only showing during really low sand level events.

There are other ghost forests at Moolack Beach near Newport and Sunset Bay near Coos Bay that can be seen year-round. Others may show up in low sand winter events around Hug Point (Cannon Beach), Rockaway Beach, Cape Lookout State Park and Beverly Beach just north of Newport. Hotels in Waldport - Where to eat - Waldport, Seal Rock Maps and Virtual Tours





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