From the Blog

Travel Tuesdays: Oswald West State Park

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Travel Tuesday. Maybe an ongoing new feature. We are going to attempt to go see something, maybe on a regular basis, and maybe take photos, and maybe write about it, maybe on Tuesdays. I like this idea, but I am noncommittal. I don’t even know what I’m doing for the rest of the day today, nevermind every Tuesday for the rest of the summer.

It was bright and sunny in the days following our move to Astoria. We looked up from our unpacking, saw how gorgeous it was outside and remembered, “Hey! We live on the coast! What lucky bastards!” And decided to go to the beach.

We hit the road for Oswald West State Park.

We don’t have real jobs. So as part of our employment-free summer adventure, we are trying to be as frugal as possible. We packed a lunch to take with us. We plan to do a lot of picnicking this summer.

We pulled off 101 a bit south of Cannon Beach. Even in the middle of a weekday, route 101 was busy with cars. The drive is very pretty, especially in the newness of spring, with shades of young green so bright it looks artificial.

The parking lot at Oswald State Beach was remarkably full, with lots of roof racks and surf boards. We followed a gravel footpath under the road and descended into the forest. Just a few paces from the backbone roadway of the Oregon coast, the trees and babbling of Short Sand Creek drowned out the sound of roaring cars and trucks.

We were happy to observe numerous giant old growth Sitka Spruce along this path. It’s always a bit stunning to see how big these trees can actually get. I don’t know the boundaries of the Tillamook Burn, but it seems a rarity to see these big giants in the coast range.

The lovely green path winded a quarter mile down to the beach. We passed by many people carrying surf boards, hiking their way back up. It was a gorgeous sunny day, but we were surprised by how populated this park seemed. It was a week day. How do you surf in the middle of the week? Don’t these people have jobs?

Oh, wait. We don’t have jobs either.

The creek opened up into a perfect cove beach, sheltered on both sides by eroding, tree covered cliffs. The ocean has tossed up piles of bleached white tree trunks, scattered like old bones at the foot of the forest. These perhaps are the ghosts of the Tillamook Burn.

I liked these textures. New and old. Color and not color. Soft and hard. I’m not a poet.

So, unbelievably gorgeous beach. I kicked myself for not doing a little research about the geology prior to coming. I know the underlying forces at work for the Oregon Coast Range. But I visit a place like this and want to know why the land is upturned this specific way in this specific area. Why is is so different than the orange layers we see further down the coast at Cape Lookout? But similar to Cape Arago, further south? Is it similar? Or does it just look that way? I don’t know. See how irritating that is, not knowing something?

It was sunny that day, but breezy and cold. We could have walked around much more, but we are wimps. And remarkably, I was really stunned at how many people were out. Everyone was polite, but I was nervous seeing so many dogs without leashes, with owners carrying surfboards. I had to hold my lunch above my head to keep a curious boxer away. And of course there were a few younger adults who were noisy and somewhat less than polite, which seems to happen when youngsters travel in packs. Like other beach trips, we will remember to start our day a little earlier next time and avoid the late risers.

There is a campground at the park, but it is closed because there are big old trees likely to fall at anytime, which I image would be sort of a bummer during a camping trip. I’d be happy to camp there if they figure out the tree situation and open it back up.

It’s a lovely place. I’m happy it’s so close, because we will certainly be back to explore other parts of the park.


  1. FlamingAtheist says

    That was our favorite campground. They had wheelbarrows at the top you loaded your stuff in and took it down the hill to your campsite. Or you had to go to your campsite and find one, but either way it was a novel way to pack in. Early mornings sitting on a bench just above the cove and watching everything was awesome.
    The free-running dogs is particularly annoying though, especially if you are not comfortable around them.

  2. Yes! We were just there, and it was lovely. It was such a nice walk from the parking lot to the ocean–I always enjoy a good “path of discovery.”

  3. That’s my favorite beach! And it’s the one place I’ve gotten a nasty sunburn in Oregon… Heh.

  4. Hollie Heesacker says

    The rock formation you see in your photos are Miocene in age. They represent the infilling of the Eocene embayment. The sequence of rock is indeed very similar to Cape Arago. The each represent different portions of what is known as the Bouma sequence. As you head North along the beach at Oswald West the deposits become finer grained and actually are an uplifted submarine canyon of shale and mudstone. Cape Arago represents a different portion of the Bouma sequence. There the marine deposits are more sandstone than mudstone and shale and if you are lucky you can find a fossil or two.

    • Thanks, Hollie! I want to know ALL that stuff. If I ever go back to school “for fun,” I want to study geology. Thanks for commenting!

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