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Seven Bizarre Basalt Wonders of the Oregon Coast

Published 03/04/2015

(Oregon Coast) – There is recently much talk about the wonders of Oregon, especially on the Oregon coast. But wonders are in the eye of the beholder – and sometimes they hide in plain sight.

What is truly wondrous, if you look more carefully, are the bizarre basalts of the Oregon coast.

The fact that much of what you see here was created by gargantuan flows of lava millions of years ago – often tens of feet high – is enough of a startler to keep you in a state of “mind blown” with every turn of the head. But all that freaky and funky geology is particularly driven home by some of the truly astounding formations that these have created. (Above: what is sometimes called Star Trek Beach at Oceanside, because the rock features sometimes look like alien worlds from the series).

Here are a mere seven of examples of such basalt wonders, but far more are present in the virtual tour links found with each description. It's also where you'll find maps to these areas.

Secret Beneath Newport's Yaquina Head

North Point, Depoe Bay

At the northern face of Newport's Yaquina Head sit a handful of neighborhood streets, and at the end of one of those was once a secret pathway heading down to the craggy layout of this headland. Now, you have to take the southernmost access at Moolack Beach (near Moolack Shores motel) and walk a mile to get there. But it's worth it. Here is a beach rarely walked by others and covered in odd structures poking out of the sand, along with a mysterious arch or two.

Steps at North Point

At the very northern tip of Depoe Bay, on the central Oregon coast, there lurks a kind of basement in the basalt with step-like structures leading down – all made by nature.

The spot is called North Point, found a ways behind Sunset Avenue (across from the gas station), and it's here that a hidden spot sits, fascinating in a wide variety of aspects. One of its most notable parts is a sort of sunken area in the basalt that feels a bit like a basement. Even more intriguing are the natural steps formed by this former lava flow.

Also of note: you can sometimes feel the waves rumble through the rocks at this place. It's full of amazing areas.

Cook's Chasm Near Yachats

Some natural steps also exist here (see the geologic article about this subject) at nearby places like Strawberry Hill and Neptune State Park. However, right at the boundary between Lincoln County and Lane County – a few miles south of Yachats – sits this jaw-dropping wonder. The spouting horn at Cook's Chasm fires water off into the air, created by the wave-compressing action of the basalt rock just beneath the surface. It makes a dramatic hissing noise as well.

Even more awe-inspiring is when the sunset hits it just right and the spouting wave gets gussied up in wild colors.

Oceanside's Star Trek Beach

This tiny village of Oceanside on the north Oregon coast is tucked away, practically out of site, but crammed with wonders. The most obvious is the tunnel going through Maxwell Point, where Tunnel Beach sits, sometimes called Star Trek Beach for the way parts of its surreal slabs resemble one episode or another of the famed series. A few caves lurk here, as do a host of starfish colonies.

Surreal Slabs Near Manzanita

It's a rather breathy hike to these spots at the southern tip of Oswald State Park, but some true surrealism in nature awaits you at the end of the path that begins from a small gravel parking lot near the big overlooks above Manzanita.

One striking structure is a weird cove with a tube-like basalt structure at the top. It's like a hole in the cliffs that suddenly opens to the ocean floor a few hundred feet below. As if that weren't enough, you'll quickly spot two massive and freaky basalt features rising high above the ocean. The first is Cube Rock – partially seen from the highway – and the second is Pulpit Rock, lying just to the south of the viewpoint. Cube Rock is especially impressive, looking a stone column carved by a race of giants.

Silver Point Reef Oddity at Cannon Beach

You'll have to walk a ways to get here: the closest path is a hard-to-find hidden access at the southern edge of Cannon Beach. But much is here to delight, and luckily some of it can be seen from above.

One of the most engaging features at Silver Point – the beach just below the gravel overlook south of town – is where a large basalt blob sits. Given the right conditions, you see a chunk of the waves going sideways, rather than coming in. Some reef just below the waves is causing the breakers to dart from north to south, looking a bit like a strange creature rushing back and forth just under the water.

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse Near Seaside and Cannon Beach

Over a mile out to sea sits one of the strangest and most striking features of the Oregon coast: the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. Constructed in the mid 1800's, it was decommissioned in the 1950's, and since has become a lonely sentinel out at sea. While you cannot visit it, the history of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse is remarkable. Seaside Virtual Tour, Map.

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