Who has heard of Oregon's ghost forest that reemerged after hiding for thousands of years? The Neskowin Ghost Forest is the remnants of a Sitka spruce forest on the Oregon Coast. These eerie stumps tell the story of a doomed forest destroyed and forgotten about thousands of years ago only to reemerge.
It is thought that the stumps are the product of a devasting earthquake along the Cascadia subduction zone that abruptly lowered the trees. The trees were then covered by mud from landslides or debris from a tsunami. The event that destroyed the forest also helped to save the stumps by burying the remains, thus being preserved rather than eroding them away over time.
The Death, Burial, and Reemergence of the Neskowin Ghost Forest
The trees that make up the Neskowin Ghost Forest once stood 150–200 feet (46–61 meters) high and many were at least 200 years old when they were buried. At first, researchers thought that the trees died slowly as the roots gradually submerged in saltwater as the sea levels rose, but more recent discoveries suggest that the event was much more dramatic and sudden with an earthquake being the more likely cause.
- Height: The Trees Stood At 150–200 feet (46–61 meters) High
- Earthquake: Likely Submerged The Forest
It is thought that the earthquake dropped the forested land into the tidal zone and then the ocean water rush in and buried the decapitated trunks in the mud.
Before the massive storm, some of the locals would notice a few of the stumps exposed during particularly harsh storms every 20 or so years. But they would always be reburied in a few days. But the massive storms of 97/98 changed that and unearthed them permanently.
These are not ancient fossil trees and would have been known to the Native Americans inhabiting this region of the Pacific Northwest. Many of the stumps are over 2,000 years old.
They reemerged after having been buried for millennia during the winter of 1997 to 1998. During that year, turbulent storms swept away the sand covering them.
- Age: 2,000 Years Old (According to Carbon Dating)
Location and Seeing The Neskowin Ghost Forest
If one would like to see them, then plan to see them at low tide. Today (at low tide) around 100 of these ancient stumps can be seen sticking out of the beach. They are covered in barnacles, mussels, and other sea life. Interestingly, the centers of some of the particularly large stumps have been eroded away to create shallow pools for sea life who get trapped as the tide recedes.
- Location: Near Proposal Rock In The Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site
- When To See Them: At Low Tide
It is sometimes possible to see small fish or crabs in these little pools as they wait for the tide to come back in and release them back into the ocean.
- Proposal Rock: Named For The Turn of The Century Marriage Proposal of Charles Gage to Della Page
Proposal Rock is an island on the coast that can be reached when the tide is out. Once on the island, one can climb the short trail to the top. At the westernmost point, one can gaze out with amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and see the Ghost Forest below.
- Tip: Keep An Eye On The Tides While On Proposal Rock
Other Ghost Forests, Octopus Trees, and Fungi In Oregon
More Ghost Forests:
But the Neskowin Ghost Forest is not unique - it is one of over 30 ghost forests lining the Oregon and Washington Coast. Exploring these can add some unexpected spice into a Pacific Northwest road trip. A Washington ghost forest of red cedars was even central to discovering the Cascadia fault line. The ghost forests are a testament to the dramatic seismic events that this region is subject to.
The Octopus Tree:
Located on the coast of the Pacific Northwest is one of the strangest trees in the United States and has been described as a natural wonder. The Octopus Tree is one of the most unusual-shaped trees in the world and no one really knows how or why it got to be this way.
The Octopus Tree is a Sitka spruce tree in Tillamook County in Oregon and has long been a local attraction. The boughs of the Octopus Tree, lacking a central truck, extend horizontally as much as 30 feet before turning upward.
- Height: 105 feet or 32 meters
- Circumference: 46 feet or 14 meters
The Humongous Fungus Of Oregon:
The humongous fungus in Oregon is a species of pathogenic fungus (mushroom) called Armillaria ostoyae. It could be the largest living organism on the planet by volume, area, and mass - an impressive title. Still given how new these discoveries are, it is very possible that there are even larger ones around the world.
- Area: 3.7 Square Miles or 2,400 Acres
- Weight: As Much As 35,000 Tons (Blue Whales "Only" Weigh up to 150 Tons)
- Age: Possibly As Old As 8,650 Years Old