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Deeper Into Newport's Yaquina Head: Oregon Coast Details You Missed

Published 10/03/22 at 5:34 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Deeper Into Newport's Yaquina Head: Oregon Coast Details You Missed

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(Newport, Oregon) – There is much to see and do around Newport's Yaquina Head Outsanding Natural Area, a federally-managed headland that includes a soaring hilltop to hike, an old quarry-turned-tidepool area, a lighthouse, and viewpoints that consistently cause dropping of the jaw. You can climb, amble, watch birds to your heart's delight, or take in exceptional wave action even in calmer conditions. (All photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

It's a non-stop wonder. But its background is yet another level to explore. The stories behind Yaquina Head and some details you might've missed send the fascinating factor into overdrive.

Beach of Weird Noises

Yaquina Head's Cobble Beach is one of the more unique spots on the Oregon coast as it makes that delightfully odd rattling sound, nicknamed the “magic rocks sound.” It's one of just a few that do this.

Cobble Beach is comprised almost entirely of sizable, black, rounded cobblestones, that when stirred by the tide make a funky rattling or chittering sound.

It's also unique in that high sand levels in summer wind up revealing more of it rather than less, like most beaches on this shoreline. High sand bars build up just off the rocky reef and keep the tide back by as much as 100 feet or so. This suddenly opens up large chunks of the headland's basalt you've never seen. It's an intense wonder.

Haunted Lighthouse or No?

There have long been tales from the Yaquina Head Lighthouse that a keeper named Higgins fell to his death on the long spiral staircase, and thereafter haunted the sentinel. However, right about 2000, as a future writer for Oregon Coast Beach Connection was looking into this, the Bureau of Land Management told him they had just received a letter from a descendant of HIggins, saying he moved to Portland eventually, became a dock worker and died of natural causes in the '30s. Ghost-busted.

However, one rumor has persisted over the decades that the Hardy Boys TV series filmed an episode there and left the lighthouse a shambles, causing locals to sue the Hollywood company to come and clean it up. Oregon Coast Beach Connection has not been able to verify that.

Lighthouse Under Wraps

For several months in 2006, Yaquina Head Lighthouse was all wrapped up and looked like the space shuttle. It was a truly unusual sight: covered in scaffolding and heavy plastic with nary a glimpse of its tall, slender and grand visage.

Major renovations were taking place, which ended up including replacing the lightning rod (it was at times useless), repainting the top, various sections re-welded, and some of the ironworks had to be replaced by actually using a foundry way down in Florida because the design was so singular. See the 2006 article: Oregon Lighthouse Still Under Wraps.

Yaquina Head's Geologic Tales, Origin Story

The Newport icon has had its share of wacky rumors, including an odd tale that there's a lot of magnitized ore in the headland, enough so that compasses of passing ships get thrown off.

Nope, that's just a rumor, say geologists.

What's the origin story of Yaquina Head? It comes from a massive lava flow some 14 million years ago called the Columbia Basalts, because it flowed down that region before coming here. They originated over by where the Idaho border is now, but the Oregon coast as we know it was all under water at the time. The continents have moved it westwards (plus some amount of uplift of other land has joined us as well).

Misnomers about the headland’s geology persisted for a time as well. Around the '50s, the theory popped up that it was once an underwater volcano (Cape Perpetua and Cascade Head were). But nope, it's those insanely large lava fields, oozing and scorching their way across 300 miles and then piling up here.

There's some more twists and turns in its scientific story. See Is Newport's Yaquina Head an Old Oregon Coast Volcano?

Yaquina Head Historic Tales

How tall is the lighthouse? When was it born? And what shipwrecks were encountered and what scandals erupted here? The rumors and actual history of Yaquina Lighthouse are a kick in the pants. See Tallest and Most Storied on Oregon Coast: Newport's Yaquina Head Lighthouse

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