Rising out of the sand and seawater on Oregon’s Tillamook Coast, around a hundred ancient decaying stumps stand sentinel. Dubbed the Neskowin Ghost Forest, they are an eerily beautiful memento of the towering Sitka spruce trees that stood here for some two millennia.
For centuries, these old stumps were hidden under the sand. Peeking above the surf only briefly every few decades, the ghost forest was little more than a local legend. Then, in the winter of 1997 to ‘98, the coast was pummeled by powerful storms that eroded away the sands and exposed the uncanny natural wonder that was buried beneath.
Geologists theorize that the ancient trees, carbon dated to around 2,000 years old, were felled during the major earthquake that hit the Cascadia subduction zone in 1700. The earthquake dropped the forested land into the tidal zone. When the ocean water rushed in, it likely decapitated the trees, leaving only their trunks submerged in the mud, which staved off decay and preserved the forest remains for the years to come.
Before they met their watery fate, the mighty trees stood around 150 to 200 feet tall. Today, the relics of those giants share the beach with small tide pools and various marine life. The phantom-like forest is revealed by the shallow waters of low tide, and more and more ancient stumps become exposed when the tide is at its lowest during the summer.
Know Before You Go
Neskowin is a small coastal town in Tillamook County, about 15 miles north of Lincoln City. The ghost forest is located within the Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site, near Proposal Rock. The beach is about a 5-minute walk from the public parking lot. The ghost forest is accessible year-round, but it is best seen at low tide.