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Oregon Coast (Time) Travel Tips: Two Exceptional Wonders of Newport

Published 06/10/2017 at 9:24 PM PDT - Updated 06/10/2017 at 9:44 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon Coast Travel Tips: Two Exceptional Wonders of Newport

(Newport, Oregon) – Unlike most villages on the Oregon coast, there's nothing sleepy about the resort hotspot of Newport. It's bustling and brimming with activity, and contains enough stuff to do to keep you occupied for a week. If you get bored here, you're probably deceased and no one told you.

Among the fascinating finds are two (well, actually three) attractions of note that are timeless – literally. They even involve one kind of time travel or another. One is a beach with discoveries millions of years old, while another involves two of the Oregon coast's most amazing lighthouses.

Moolack Beach. The northern edges of Newport boast this rather remarkable stretch of beach, which really gets interesting in wintertime. During the rest of the year, it's sand and cool cliffs as far as the eye can see. But even then, prehistoric hints lay scattered about.

First, there's that engaging expanse of beach. Soft and pristine, it runs on for a few miles – from near Yaquina Head to Beverly Beach. It's part of that mesmerizing (and distracting) drive just north of town where ocean vistas are cause for extra self control to keep from gazing at them and keeping your eyes on the road.

In winter, some truly remarkable things happen. Many years – but not all – sand levels get insanely low and the bedrock starts showing. These reveal huge cracks and scrapes, showing how this area is sliced and diced by shifting sands on top of it during the other seasons.

It's part of a massive underlying structure that runs much of the central Oregon coast called the Astoria Formation, which is different than the basalt (former lava flows) that are beneath Yachats and northern Oregon coast sections around Cannon Beach. This is softer stuff and gray, made of sandstone and siltstone that's about 18 million years old. It was actually a kind of fill-in mish mash of a variety of sandstone materials and other rocks, coming from eroded basalt from around Oregon, the Gorge and other sources.

When sand levels reveal this surreal seascape, you can spot all sorts of ancient lifeforms in there. Fossils are embedded in this rock face all over.

They're usually masses of long-dead sea life – mostly shells - that ended up in a hole or at the bottom of the ocean millions of years ago. However, the cliffs here and even the sand provide plenty of these during other times of the year.

It's perfectly legal to take fossils off the beach, but not to cut them out of any rock or surface area.

A Tale of Two Lighthouses. Newport has a grand total of two lighthouses within its city limits, offering double the fun. One sits at the tip of Yaquina Head and is the tallest lighthouse on the entire Oregon coast. The other sits at Yaquina Bay at the southern side of town and resembles an old Victorian home.

Both are open to explore, but not all the time. The southern lighthouse keeps daily hours of noon to 4 p.m., while the larger lighthouse is – at least as of this writing – only open by pre-purchased tours during months limited to summer.

Both have a rich and colorful history, although the Yaquina Bay lighthouse's past is mostly limited to three years in operation. But things got more interesting in its afterlife.

It started shining in the late 1800's, but was decommissioned shortly thereafter when the larger one to the north was built, thus negating the need. It began to fall into a serious state of disrepair not long after, and by the mid 20th century was essentially an eyesore and a favorite target of vandalism.

It took until the mid 1990's for restoration to be finished and the place opened back up again, this time as an attraction. At times, hosts greeting visitors would dress up in period garb as well. This was also about when the light was restored as a working light, but later becoming an electronic beacon (as actual lighthouses are no longer necessary.)

By the '70s, a long-standing ghost story had surrounded the spooky sight, involving a young girl who lived there who was being chased by pirates. At one point, she fell to her death, and had haunted the place ever since. This was even featured by several books by this time.

However, in the '80s, historical research brought the truth to light, showing all this came from an old short story written by someone in the 1910's as part of a contest in the local paper. It somehow simply stuck over the years.

At 93 feet tall (not counting the height of Yaquina Head), the northern lighthouse is part of the astounding headland, a potpourri of natural wonders all by itself. This one went live in 1873, maintained by a pair of lighthouse keepers always on duty until the '60s when the light went to all automated. The keepers quarters were demolished in 1984.

It has 114 steps to the top, and it has its own wild haunting lore as well.

First and foremost is the tale of a man named Higgins who supposedly fell to his death on those steps one late and rough night. Suffering from an extreme flu or something similar, he was forced to ascend those winding heights and work because his partner had become too liquored up to do his part. Legend has it that Higgins fell because of being disoriented. Afterwards, it was said he haunted the place.

However, in the '90s, just as more people started researching this story, the Bureau of Land Management, which runs the facility, received a letter from a relative of Higgins saying he had lived a full and happy life. He'd eventually moved on to work the docks in Portland early in the century and died of old age in the '30s.

The '70s were a different matter, however. The lighthouse was used by the Hardy Boys TV show for an episode and crews left the place in such a shambles they had to be sued to deal with it. Newport Oregon Hotels in this area - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours

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