Ghost Forest. Neskowin, Oregon
A wide cold river.
An obscure location.
All these components make a unique physical feature of Neskowin an intriguing draw along the Oregon coast.
Last year, about this time actually, I posted about Neskowin Oregon. In that post I described the wide-open beach north of the monolith – a beautiful rock island for which I didn’t even mention its name (which by the way is Proposal Rock). Nevertheless, the location drew me back, eight days shy of one year later. This time, it was for a hardly known attraction south of Proposal Rock.
What would you say if I told you about an ancient forest along Neskowin’s southern shore? A forest that appears and disappears with the shifting sand and because of its location, its visibility depends on the tides?
Well, it exists. The Neskowin Ghost Forest was hidden in the sand south of Proposal Rock until 1997 when a large storm uncovered this gem. The barnacle-covered stumps are the remains of a Sitka spruce forest believed to be over 2,000 years old. After an earthquake or resulting tsunami, the coast lost some footage to the ocean with the salt water and sand preserving the claimed trees.
After learning about the Ghost Forest in the November/December issue of the Via magazine and before heading to the coast, I did a bit of research. It seems that in order to better your odds of seeing this elusive sight, you need to go after a winter storm has shifted sand out to sea and when the tide is at its lowest.
While we couldn’t plan out the weather, we did figure out the lowest November tide we could make. That happened to take place last Sunday afternoon, when the low tide was expected to be .3 feet high. Then when we got to Neskowin, we asked around for the best spot to see the Ghost Forest. From the public parking lot we found a nice local who walked with us out to the beach and pointed out where the remains might be found.
“Goodness, I don’t know if you’ll be able to see them,” the tall gray haired lady said, “but they’re out below the rock. Ya know what – I’ll show you.”
Her long steps kept her just ahead of the group and the smell of her potato chips wafted back. As we quickly walked along the river, she explained that she had actually been interviewed by the Oregonian about 20 years ago when the forest was uncovered by a storm and thus discovered; she had even had her photo with the forest in the paper.
As we stood facing Proposal Rock she said, “The trees are out over there – over the river. I don’t see them right now though, but that’s where they are.”
At the local’s suggestion, it was decided that we did not want to wade across the cold river even if the weather was nice, bright and sunny. So, we got in the car and drove south a little ways – over the river – and found place to park before walking through a neighborhood and to the southern section of beach.
Did we dare hope to see the trees? I had seen photos of the scene. In those photos, trees resembling pier pilings without any docks or boats stuck upright in the sand. The dozens of post-like projections stood out three or more feet from the sand.
As we walked out to the water’s edge, there they were! They weren’t as high, nor nearly as many, as in the photos I’d seen, but there they were! They almost looked like driftwood, except that, like rocks, they had barnacles all over them. On a closer look, the wood fibers were visible in crevices between the barnacles. It was pretty amazing, and my friends and I took many photos.
After walking in the Ghost Forest and to the southern most end of Neskowin beach, we walked back to our car and drove back to the other side of the river. There we then went and climbed, or rather scrambled, up Proposal Rock in time to catch the last few rays of the sunset. What a sight! The bright winter sun setting over the sparkling Pacific Ocean lapping up against the rocky side of the monolith made for a lovely conclusion to the day.