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.
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.
Nearly 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.
As 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.
Cross 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.
And if one of your kids is still wearing his tennis shoes, now is a good time to break out the sandal bag.
While 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.
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.
In the center of miniature tide pools, marine life was clinging to its coniferous abode. Like this starfish:
Our 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).
Within 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.
The bluff-top homes have a $1,000,000 view—I sure hope they have tsunami coverage with their homeowners insurance policies! All 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.