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Oregon Coast Has a Ghost Forest

North of Lincoln City, an ancient forest sprouts from the sand.

Low tide reveals stumps on Neskowin Beach, picture
Photo credit
Photo: Race Jones/Outlive Creative
Photo caption
Low tide on Neskowin Beach reveals stumps from a 2,000-year-old forest.

At first glance, the Neskowin Ghost Forest, some 15 miles north of Lincoln City, Oregon, looks like the eerie remnants of an old pier. In fact, the beachfront spectacle at Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site is made of a couple dozen barnacle-coated Sitka spruce tree stumps from a decimated 2,000-year-old forest.

Most Oregonians were unaware the forest existed until 1997, when big storms created powerful waves that excavated it, revealing the peculiar tree remains. Scientists believe the forest was originally destroyed and buried under sand during an earthquake or the resulting tsunami.

Even now, the stumps aren’t always visible. The best time to get the full effect is during the winter, when tides are at their lowest, and particularly following a storm. Creeping fog, common at those times, adds to the surreal scene, making the trees look like fingers poking up from the sand.

To shake the spooky feeling, climb nearby Proposal Rock, a sea stack with a steep, unmaintained path to the top, where you can catch ocean views and keep an eye out for sneaker waves and the rising tide. Or act like a kid and collect sand dollars, plentiful on the long, clean stretch of beach.

This article was first published in November 2015 and updated in February 2019. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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