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Beneath Famous Oregon Coast Town: Surprising History, Science of Cannon Beach Part II

Published 1/10/24 at 4:45 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Beneath Famed Oregon Coast Town: Surprising History and Science of Cannon Beach Part II

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – [UPDATE WITH PART ONE LINK] ---From bunnies to birds then to geologic curiosities: there's more to Cannon Beach than the usual layers of touristy fun and repose – no matter how killer of a time that already is.

Part one of this series looking at a different side to the beloved U.S. travel destination began with curiosities of Lewis & Clark, the fiery even spooky beginnings of its greatest landmarks and other angles that probably never crossed your mind. Deeper Into Cannon Beach: History and Science Surprises of Oregon Coast Hotspot, Part I

History, the undersides of the Oregon coast and funky little animals all play a part in what you can see and do in town. Here's part two of this unique exploration of Cannon Beach.

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The Bunnies of Cannon Beach. One aspect noted by many visitors is that Cannon Beach has bundles of bunnies. They're everywhere. Clearly, they breed like, well, like rabbits. They're especially prolific on the southern edges of town, but also found in abundance at Arch Cape just south of town.

So, why so many bunnies in Cannon Beach? No one seems to know for sure, but one bit of lore that keeps getting passed around is that it had something to do with a local woman decades ago who apparently just let a bunch of them loose.

What is for certain is that the city is adamant you don't feed them. They're existing fine on their own in the wilds of the Oregon coast.

Some locals have made pets of them. This presents some care issues because they are all so inbred that their teeth grow extra long and have to be shaved down periodically or they're unable to eat.

Surveying the wrecked bridge at Cannon Beach, '64

Tsunami Created the Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest. Usually, no one can say anything good came out of a tsunami. However, the otherwise-tragic tsunami of 1964 had its hand in one of the largest festivals on the Oregon coast.

While it hit Seaside to the north much harder, in Cannon Beach it washed out the bridge. This left it cut off from the rest of the world for a time, and once the bridge was rebuilt they found tourists didn't return.

Originally, they held a sandcastle contest to keep themselves entertained while the bridge was being reconnected. They decided to hold another the following year when they realized a lot of tourists weren't coming back, and after that it snowballed quickly. By the late '60s, it was a huge attraction. You could still drive on this beach at the time, and many visitors came to the festival that way.

Puffins of Cannon Beach. (Photo above courtesy Seaside Aquarium). A very distinct aspect of the north Oregon coast town is the yearly influx of tufted puffins. It's here, on Haystack Rock, where they begin their four-month stay to breed and rear their young. They arrive starting in April, with July a highlight because they are at their most visible after giving birth to their young. Once they've made their nests on top of Haystack Rock, one of the pair emerges into plain sight while the other goes off hunting for food.

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Until then, it takes patience to spot one as they are hiding in the nests, caring for the egg. Periodically, they do come and go, and it's then that volunteers from the Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) can help you spot one.

This landmark is one of the few places puffins nest on the coast now, as their population has greatly diminished in recent decades. It's by far and away the most visible area on this coastline, although Bandon has some on occasion. They even have one day a year that's similar to the full season that HRAP puts in, helping people spot them.

The rock is a national wildlife refuge, and thus fireworks celebrations for Independence Day has not been allowed for decades.

Ghost stumps at Hug Point / Oregon Coast Beach Connection

Red Towers and Ghost Forests of the Cannon Beach Area. By far and away one of the most interesting finds on all this coastline are the ghost forests that only show up on rare occasions, and the fairly weird red towers which are even rarer.

All this only happens just south of town at about Hug Point through Arch Cape, and only when sand levels get so low they're hitting bedrock in some spots. These ghost forests are much more interesting than the more well known ones at Neskowin, and they are around 4,000 years old – much older than the 2,000-year-old stumps at Neskowin.

Be careful of all the explanations online, however. See Explanations of Ghost Forest Wrong, Say Oregon Coast Geologists ---- Full list of ghost forests on the coast: In Search of More Oregon Coast Ghost Forests - Where to Find Ghost Forests

Red Towers, on the other hand, are rarer still. These are wildly surreal structures that are formed when some chunks of sand harden beneath the surface and then oxidize into striking colors and shapes. They don't last long once exposed. They can form anywhere that sand levels have disappeared from, but it seems more often up here. Rare, Surreal Find Along Oregon, Washington Coast: Red Towers

See part one: Deeper Into Cannon Beach: History and Science Surprises of Oregon Coast Hotspot, Part I


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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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