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Surreal Science, Oddities Found Between Florence and Yachats on Central Oregon Coast

Published 05/31/22 at 4:25 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Surreal Science, Oddities Found Between Florence and Yachats on Central Oregon Coast

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(Yachats, Oregon) – Anyway you cut it, you're always going to find something new on the coastline if you know how to look.

That 20-mile segment of Oregon coast between Florence and Yachats is filled with one surprise bend in the road after another, as complex little beaches pop up between the rolling cliffs and the asphalt gives way to forested chunks or tall earthen walls on the eastern side. Think of it as a kind of preview, in essence. (Above: Strawberry Hill's mysterious "steps:" all photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

If you get down onto the beaches, the eye-popping surprises are myriad and the oddities are hiding in beaches that are somewhat hidden themselves. You'll see some things you've never encountered before. And it's a rush.

Head down to Strawberry Hill Wayside and you'll see three, prime surreal examples, starting with the tree stump embedded in something that is in itself hard to define. At the far end of this comely cove, there's a big nob of rock sticking up in the air coming complete with a patch of soil and some plants on top of that. It looks like something out of early Yes album covers or Dr. Seuss gone geologically insane.

From a purely geologic stance, it's clearly a chunk of the cliff that's been eroded away and disconnected from the rest of it.

Even curiouser, there's a log jammed into it, piercing its wall and reaching all the way through. Whether it lost its battle with a recent storm or it's wood that was buried in that material for eons is still not known. How did it get there? Bizarre sights from such a wondrously beautiful spot on the central Oregon coast.

Back to the entrance of Strawberry Hill (photo at top), you'll see this outstandingly strange little structure. What appear to be steps are embedded in the basalt rock. But this basalt is part of a giant marine lava flow spewed from Cape Perpetua some 37 million year ago. Proof of ancient aliens?

No, it's proof real science is wilder than any sci-fi. It's called a cordwood joint, how geologists have categorized this unique way that lava has of forcing its way into older basalt structures, then splitting into odd little segments, and these eventually get worn down and unhidden by millions of years of sea water. See Mysterious Steps Explained by Geology

These are also found in several other spots along the coast, including Depoe Bay's North Point and another beach just north of Strawberry Hill called Neptune State Park.

Then, of course, there's the giant eyes lurking at the back of this park: actually small caves or just holes slowly eating up the cliff. Still, ever get the feeling you're being watched?

Indeed, Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint (which is really in two halves a mile from each other) is a fascinating study in central Oregon coast oddities as well, including some striking secrets. Shell middens are buried in the layers of the more secretive half of the park, the northern half, which lies just beyond the county border. Shell middens are the refuse of ancient peoples in the area, sometimes thousands of years old. It's where they threw their discarded clam shells and other garbage. White layers of broken up material are dotted throughout some clifflines of the park.

Heading farther north, Cape Perpetua soars some 800 feet into the air, providing what feel like aerial views down towards the Devil's Churn, the top of the Interpretive Center, Cook's Chasm, Thor's Well and the little bridge over the chasm leading into Lane County. Most interesting, however, is the long, snaking walkway down to Devil's Churn. Here's, it's an imposing figure, looking daunting and overwhelming. Of course, if you've ever walked it, it's truly no big deal. See the Upper Lane County Virtual Tour for more on all these

Once inside Yachats itself, there's always plenty of wave action with one kind of spouting horn or another along this vast, intriguing set of black, jagged basalt. However, the holes in the rocks can be even more mesmerizing, giving you glimpses of the tidal action below this massive stretch of rock. Sometimes ocean water gets put under such pressure it fires upwards, but mostly it's wildly engaging to sit and just watch the tide come in under this rocky shelf, giving you the somewhat spooky realization parts of this basalt you're walking on may not be as thick as you thought.

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