Oregon Coast: Neskowin Beach Ghost Forest

Our visit to the Neskowin Beach Ghost Forest was inspired by an Oregon geology exhibit at The Museum of Natural and Cultural History located on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene.

Morning Fog

Consider this diagram:

Low tide on the Northwest Coast may reveal groves of drowned tree stumps, sometimes referred to as “ghost forests.” In the 1980s, Brian Atwater of the US Geological Survey wondered why. What could explain the ghost forests? Atwater hypothesized that the ground dropped during an enormous earthquake. A tsunami washed in salt water and beach sand, killing the trees.

subsidenceNearly 2000 years old, the remains of decayed cedar and spruce tree trunks remained buried and preserved under mud and soil until they were unearthed in a series of storms that pummeled the Central Oregon coast in the winter of 1997-98 (source: TravelOregon.com). Curious to see the ghost forest for ourselves, we consulted the tide forecast and timed our visit to Neskowin beach when the water was at the lowest point in the day.

Neskowin ShopsAs the TravelOregon.com story suggests, the main parking lot is between mile markers 98 and 99 off of Highway 101. We visited on a Saturday morning in June and the Farmer’s Market was in full swing. Note: The beach is a bit of a walk. If you have to use the restroom, you’ll find clean public facilities here.

Neskowin Farmers MarketCross the street to the south of the parking lot and look for the trail that follows the Neskowin Creek tributary. If you are in bare feet, notice how the sand squeaks if you shuffle along.

TrailheadAnd if one of your kids is still wearing his tennis shoes, now is a good time to break out the sandal bag.

Creek Bank


Everything is AwesomeWhile we headed in the direction of Proposal Rock (an island in high tide and apparently the site of a really cool trail we didn’t know to find and climb).

Some of the tree stumps are visible from the north side of the creek, but if you really want to explore, “Suck it up Sally” and make the chilly portage. Wear shorts or cross where the stream is a bit wider and shallower.

Ghost Forest Neskowin Rewarded with an eery fog and nearly deserted terrain, in this photo you can see much of the Ghost Forest with Proposal Rock in the background.

Tree Stump in TidepoolIn the center of miniature tide pools, marine life was clinging to its coniferous abode. Like this starfish:

Starfish on TreeOur kids enjoyed combing the beach for shells and sand dollars and my youngest son found not one, but three, “full dollars,” as he calls them (we have lots of “fifty centers” at home).

Sand DollarWithin twenty minutes of our arrival, the tide was coming back in and swirling around the trees closest to the shoreline. Our dog enjoyed the visit as much as the kids (dogs are welcome, but must remain on a leash).

We wandered down to the larger tide pools at the far edge of the beach. In warmer weather, we probably would have ventured in.

Tide PoolThe bluff-top homes have a $1,000,000 view—I sure hope they have tsunami coverage with their homeowners insurance policies! Houses on BluffAll in all, we had a lovely first time visit to Neskowin. Much less touristy than nearby Lincoln City, check out the shops, the beach, and the Ghost Forest the next time you pass through town.

About the Author

Julie Henning
Julie Henning is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Eugene, Oregon. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and owner of the family-travel website RoadTripsForFamilies.com. She is a recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. Julie is the Oregon Coast destination specialist for Bindu Media, an itinerary-focused website launching in Spring 2016 and featuring the work of 200+ professional, indie travel writers. Julie has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources (DNR) Magazine, Sustainable Chicago Magazine, Group Tour Magazine, Student Group Tour Magazine, Silent Sports Magazine, Intercom Magazine, Roadtrippers.com, and FTF Geocacher Magazine. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio and is an affiliate producer with the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. She has blogged for TravelWisconsin.com, Travel Oregon, and VISIT Milwaukee. Julie travels with her three kids and black lab as much as possible and lives by the motto, "Not all who wander are lost." Check out some of her best work at www.juliehenning.com.