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What They Don't Tell You About Oregon Coast Spring: Orcas, Deserted Beaches, Weird Foam

Published 04/20/22 at 4:52 AM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

What They Don't Tell You About Oregon Coast Spring: Orcas, Deserted Beaches, Weird Foam

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(Oregon Coast) – There's much more to the Oregon coast in spring than spring break. In fact, that period just after the larger spring break weeks host a bundle of surprises. April through May are a much less populated time on the beaches, but also hosting an array of natural features that tend to give this timeframe the nickname of “secret season” or “secret spring.” No one seems to talk about these cajoling amenities. (Above: ghost forest stump at Sunset Bay, Coos Bay,  courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more)

There are some truly wild wonders out here to be found in that period – and some have definitely already occurred along the Oregon coast this past month. Eyebrow-raising finds you could make include more empty beaches, low tides, free-flying sea foam and the marvels of whales – which very much include spotting orcas.


Crazed Sea Foam Action. Spring storms can sometimes offer up some weird sights, especially when paired with the larger blooms of phytoplankton that happen this time of year. These are the microscopic creatures that whales and other fish eat in huge abundance. One kind, called diatoms, are responsible for much of the sea foam you see in the waves. Their millions of tiny skeletons combine with the air to make air bubbles in the breakers.

With spring blooms creating even more of them, your chances increase of spotting sea foam pull off all kinds of acrobatic stunts: like watching it fly in big clumps. On occasion it goes sailing across the highways, builds up on the beaches in gargantuan blobs, or in the case of the Devil's Churn near Yachats you may see it flying upwards, looking like snow going the wrong direction.

There have been some sizable storms this spring and it's been a much more tempestuous one than usual, along with colder than normal as well. There have been some sporadic reports on social media of such foam, but not a lot.


Alone at Seaside

Beaches Less Traveled. Beyond all the engaging natural phenomena about this time of year, crowds are generally much less. It's far easier to find yourself alone on many of the beaches, even on weekends. A lot of beach burghs become ghost towns at times – and thus you'll find some tempting specials and lower prices for lodgings. Prices start rising again after winter lows, but there's still this intermediate time where some remain at winter rates or just slightly higher.

Head down to the south Oregon coast and you'll find practically non-stop deserted beaches. Locales in between towns like Coos Bay, Port Orford or Gold Beach are truly bereft of others.


Oceanside at an extremely low tide

Serious Minus Tides. Much of the year's lower tides can happen in April and March, but May and early June can see the absolute lowest. Yes, this means great tidepooling but that's the obvious. Some spots, like Oceanside, the Face Rock area of Bandon or Arch Cape, can change drastically. Sunset Bay near Coos Bay can reveal ancient ghost forest stumps not normally visible (photo at top), as can Netarts near Oceanside. However, these tides come back in, so keep a close eye on tide tables and don't get yourself stuck someplace remote.


Killer whales, photo courtesy NOAA

Whales Including Orcas. Whale watching does not stop after late March and its official Whale Watch Week. Grays are still moving through the region as late as May, though numbers start to drop off – except for the usual hotspots around Depoe Bay. However, orcas continue their rampage through these waters, hunting seals, sea lions and some baby whales as well. They often stick around through the end of May and maybe even June.

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