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Trippy Side of Oceanside: Crazy Things Oregon Coast Sand Levels Do

Published 03/20/21 at 12:50 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Trippy Side of Oceanside: Crazy Things Oregon Coast Sand Levels Do

(Oceanside, Oregon) – It doesn't happen every summer, and even then it's never the same way twice. Oceanside, in the north Oregon coast region of the Tillamook Coast, can see some truly extraordinary changes when sand levels rise or fall. More so than most Oregon coast locales.

Normally, the famed and looming Maxwell Point is a dangerous spot to get near, and in fact during winters stormy waves make most of this beach a big no-no – unless you like getting killed. Yet during summer, when sand levels rise considerably, if they build up enough you get big sand bars just beyond the usual tideline, creating what looks like a constant low tide effect. But it's not: it's simply the sand bars keeping the tide farther out.

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This area is only accessible via a tunnel through the cliff, but if those sand levels get tall enough, the area has a tideline so far out beyond its usual place that you can easily walk around the point.

For a time this winter, the Oceanside tunnel was shut down. Luckily, it's back open.

Oceanside's Maxwell Point is usually covered in wild waves and only very rare low tide events allow access around it. However, during these spectacular sand level events – which can last from July through September - there can be as much as 50 feet between the point and the tideline.

Then, you have a gloriously cool walk around the point to what is often known as Star Trek Beach (though some still stick to the old moniker of Tunnel Beach).


Above: What Oceanside typically looks like

Many years this only lasts a few weeks, but in later years it's stuck around longer. For some unknown reason, ocean conditions can remain calm enough to let this happen with greater frequency and for a longer duration in recent years around this shoreline. It creates greater access to places like Maxwell Point, spots in the Cannon Beach area and other sections of the Oregon coast in ways that are sometimes not only unprecedented but they stick around past the main summer season and into the early fall.

It takes calm conditions to allow sand to start piling up. The calmer the wave situation, the more sand it brings in.


Bit of a rare sight: Maxwell Point in a dry state

When waves pick up or the storm season begins, that's what takes sand outward. This, too, has its incredible rewards, like lots of agates at Oceanside. Or down the road a bit, at Cape Lookout, if sand gets scoured out enough you can see some killer ghost forests.

Most of those are around 1,000 years old or so, but there's one set at Netarts that's an astounding 80,000 years old.

This “new” kind of ease-of-access can shock even longtime residents in the nearby communities, although residents of Oceanside are rather used to it.

All this unusual accessibility isn't a guarantee for safety, however. Those tides can come back in.

Make sure you keep a close eye on the tide if you decide to check any of these areas out. Be warned that Oceanside's access phenomenon at Maxwell Point can start waning at any time after it kicks in during summer.

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Keywords: Oregon Coast, Star Trek, Oceanside, Tillamook Coast, travel, geology, beaches, Manzanita, Rockaway Beach, Newport, Bandon, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay