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Six Places to Never Go on the Oregon Coast

Published 10/22/2018 at 5:54 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

Six Places to Never Go on the Oregon Coast

(Oregon Coast) – Beach safety is always on the minds of state officials and local officials on the Oregon coast, no matter what the weather. Much of it is obvious to many people, and there’s plenty of well-publicized warnings out there about not turning your back on the ocean or staying off logs. (Above: Thor's Well near Yachats - getting near this is not wise).

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Still, the simplest of cautions are ignored even in the nicest of conditions, and part of that is likely chalked up to a complete unfamiliarity with the power of the waves on this coastline. There are some warnings, however, that aren’t so obvious.

There’s a dark-humored joke among some tourism folks on the Oregon coast that “statistics say that 100 percent of the people who die in the waves don’t come back to visit.” Here’s six things to do to avoid being one of those stats.

Beyond the “Closed” Signs – Especially Parking Lots

This is the most obvious of the warnings, but they go unheeded in the dumbest of moments. Signs that tell you to stay out of certain spots are there for a reason. Those on top of Cape Kiwanda are a prime example, especially around the cove-like “punchbowl” structure.

The most dim-witted of actions occur when there are signs during storms telling you a parking lot to a beach access is closed. Don’t ignore these for a second. These are true hazards, if state officials have cut off access to an area because of storm waves. The SW 33rd access at Lincoln City is one example of serious wave hazards: storm surges sometimes come over that seawall and crush the picnic bench.

One incident at Garibaldi in the early 2000’s had a group of people ignoring the closed parking lot sign there, and at least one vehicle was floated for a time by massive waves coming through the viewpoint.

Jetties – Anywhere

A serious problem in winter is beachgoers wandering the jetties of Oregon coast bays. A man was killed on the south jetty of Newport’s Yaquina Bay several years back as wintry waves smacked the large boulders.

It’s unclear if people simply don’t believe these pose the same risk as storm-ravaged beaches or they’re being daredevils of one kind or another. In any case, those massive boulders that stretch out into the sea are not safe under any wave height. Sneaker waves happen here too.

Stay off jetties of any kind. That includes – but not limited to – those at the Colmbia River (which are especially nasty), Garibaldi, Newport, Florence and Nehalem Bay.

Thor’s Well Near Yachats

(See photo at top). Cook’s Chasm is one of the more engaging areas of the entire Oregon coast, with its freaky spouting horn and the always popular Thor’s Well. But therein lies the problem: you should stay farther back on those rocky slabs and don’t get near the gaping hole that lets the sea in and out.

A Hawaiian man died on those rocks a few years back, and locals complain about watching close calls on a daily basis. Someone gets soaked just about every day, and residents talk about – or have photos of – people getting knocked over all the time. These appear regularly on the town’s community Facebook page. Waves come slamming over that spot constantly, even if it looks like you’re going to be safe. It’s probably the most deceptive of spots on the Oregon coast.

There is some signage there that warns of these sneaker-like waves, but nothing keeping you back. You need to keep yourself safe here.

Beyond the Seawall at Depoe Bay

Signs at the seawall at Depoe Bay are there for a reason: don’t wander beyond the signage. Even in calmer conditions this is a bad idea, but especially when it gets stormy. A tragic example of this is a man who died there in early 2018 who, for some reason, decided he needed a closer look at storm surge waves that were already topping 20 feet in mid-air.

Lower Parts of Rocky Cliffs

When you find one of these deliciously hidden cliff areas – or even not so hidden – stay up on the cliffs. Many of these areas lurk around Depoe Bay, such as the hidden trail off Otter Loop Road that leads to a set of rocky cliffs, Rocky Creek wayside close to town, or the South Point or North Point areas of Depoe Bay. Some spots south of Yachats also present these dangers, such as certain structures at Strawberry Hill or Neptune State Scenic Vewpoint.

Case in point: a young girl from Lake Oswego was orphaned in summer of 2018 when her parents, Miaochan Chen, 49, and Wenjun Zhu, 41, were swept off the bottom of the cliff areas at Otter Loop Road.

This happened in more placid wave conditions and sunny weather, without large breakers.

When conditions are calm and the waves aren’t smacking against these rocks, it’s tempting to think you can get down to lower areas beyond the clifftop plateau and go foraging for mussels or just goofing around. It’s not.

Those spots closer to the waves are too close – no matter the weather. If you see someone hanging out below the main cliff you need to yell and warn them. Even in calmer conditions, a larger wave will come along eventually.

Below Ecola State Park, Cannon Beach

For the adventurous, beware the temptation to try and get down to the hidden beaches below Ecola State Park. There are no trails going down there, and if there’s any left after all the erosion that’s taken place, they are broken off in spots and the only possible way down is by the hasty, unwise endeavor of sliding down a cliff slope.

Almost no one makes it back up after trying this, and there is news footage at least three times a year of someone getting hauled out by helicopter. Don’t be that guy. More  Oregon Coast Beach Health Safety Alerts

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