Exploring The Neskowin Ghost Forest: One of Oregon’s Natural Wonders

The Neskowin Ghost Forest is a state landmark that has certainly earned the popularity it’s garnered over the years — popularity that has literally been thousands of years in the making.

The forest itself had been hidden beneath the shores, with only a small portion able to be seen every 20 years or so. It wasn’t until the 90’s that it was finally unveiled. In the winter of 1997-1998, a series of powerful storms rocked the coastal town of Neskowin, Oregon. The harsh weather was strong enough to uncover what we now call the “Neskowin Ghost Forest”.

This site — a tree graveyard, many have called it — is fascinating to come across, especially for those who stumble across the stumps without knowing it’s there. Because of this, the ghost forest has become a very popular tourist destination, visited by many that are curious about its history and wanting to see what the remnants of a forest long since passed looks like.

If you’re also curious, here is all you need to know about the forest itself and what to keep in mind when going to see the forest yourself.

 

The Story of the Neskowin Ghost Forest

Story of the Neskowin Ghost Forest
Neskowin Ghost Forest at an extreme minus tide with sunrise and fog.

When the tide is out, you can find the Neskowin Ghost Forest. It’s a group of around 100 ancient stumps jutting out of the sand and the incoming waves. A majority of each stump is still buried deep into the soil, so there are undoubtedly more to be discovered.

The ones that can currently be seen may not look like much, but around 2000 years ago, each stump was once a sitka spruce tree, rising up to around 150-200 feet high. There are actually a few theories around what happened to the trees. One is that it was destroyed due to an earthquake or a tsunami — an event to take all the trees out at once instead of going through the full life cycle of each tree. Despite the event causing the forest to fall, it also helped to preserve what remained.

The other theory, and the one that is more agreed upon by scientists and geologists is the theory that it was actually caused by rising sea levels. Sitka spruce trees rely on freshwater, so if they’re fed enough salt water over a long period of time, it will “poison” them. This causes them to eventually die, and because this was due to rising tides, many trees within the forest died off this way. The tides buried the stumps in the soil, ensuring those would be the only pieces remaining when they eventually fell.

Whatever the answer may truly be, the stumps were buried deep in the soil, allowing them to be properly preserved until they were once again uncovered in the 90s.

Many of these stumps are large, and so when the tide draws out, they create pools within their hollowed stumps where sea life survives until the tides rush back in. They’re covered in barnacles and mussels, and other similar sea life.

So why have they reappeared now? After all, before the storms of 97-98, the stumps could only be peeked at every couple decades or so. Now they have yet to bury themselves back in the sand. Well, it’s believed that this is because the sea levels are very similar to what the sea levels were 2000 years ago. Because of this, we can now see the stumps again, but there may be a period in time in the future where the stumps will be naturally buried once again.

The area is mysterious, interesting, and has plenty of scientific value; it’s a glimpse into the past, and while it may be destroyed now, that very fact tells a story. 2000 years ago, a disaster caused an entire forest to fall, and now we can observe their remains long after their destruction. It’s a dramatic site, that much is for sure.

Thankfully, the Neskowin Ghost Forest is fairly easy to see. You can see them at any time of year, but because of the changing tides, you may have to time your trip to see them just right.

You can wander the beaches of the Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site, wandering amongst the preserved trees alone. The winds and the sea birds will accompany you, with the melody of the crashing waves following as you go. For those who consider themselves to be rather spiritual, it’s a very enlightening time, good for meditating with your thoughts and considering what once was and what will be in the future.

 

The Formation Process of the Ghost Forest

Drowned tree at Neskowin Forest
Drowned tree at Neskowin Ghost Forest.

There is a debate going on around the formation of the ghost forest. A large chunk of the internet will tell you it’s due to a one-time force of nature, like an earthquake or a tsunami. However, many scientists and geologists have moved past that theory, and instead have come up with a new theory as to how the ghost forest was formed. Geologists Roger Hart and Curt Peterson, authorities on coastal ghost forests, created their model that I will briefly summarize.

  • The waves eroded the shore as the sea level rose, creating a platform.
  • When the sea levels receded, a forest grew on this platform.
  • Sea levels rose and the trees died due to being poisoned by the abundance of saltwater.
  • Sand accumulated in the forest, burying it slowly over time. This preserved the forest and its soils.
  • Erosion removed the sand, uncovering the ghost forest.

 

Where is the Neskowin Ghost Forest?

Neskowin Ghost Forest proposal Rock

Neskowin itself is a fairly small and quiet town in Tillamook county, Oregon. It’s about 15 miles north of Lincoln City and on Highway 101, at milepost 98. It’s about a two hour drive from Portland. Geo coordinates are 45.0957, -123.9883.

When you’re in Neskowin, you might have heard of “Proposal Rock”, which was named for the marriage proposal of Charles Gage to Della Page at the turn of the century. It’s a small island at the edge of the ocean and is easily visible and accessible. When the tide is out, you can reach there on foot — just try to hurry before the tides roll back in.

When you make it to the island, you will climb a relatively short trail to the top. It’s there that you will find a small, secluded, living forest. Just past beside it, at the westernmost point, you’ll find the Neskowin Ghost Forest, set with the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean.

The views from the top of Proposal Rock can be beautiful, but be careful. There are no guard rails, and try your best to keep an eye on the tides. This includes the ghost forest, if you decide to water between its remains. Believe me, it’s very easy to stub your toe on one of the shorter stumps hidden beneath the water.

 

What to Know Before You Visit

Before You Visit Neskowin Forest

The Neskowin Ghost Forest has unique circumstances. While it is on a recreation site, it’s something most people find on their own, and while it may be accessible all day, there are certain periods within the day where you’ll get to see more of the forest. This is among other small complications.

Here are some things to know before you visit:

  • Plan your trip around a low tide. If you want to see as much of the forest as you can, you’ll want to wait until the tide has lowered itself significantly enough to reveal the remains of the trees.
  • The weather on the coast is usually different from the rest of Oregon. You can have a heat wave in Portland on a sunny day, but the coast of Oregon will remain dramatically different from the rest of the state. Heavy clouds, fog, and cold tend to be common, so make sure to check the weather in Neskowin before you visit. If you must, go ahead and pack yourself a coat.
  • Don’t wade or swim around the tree stumps while they’re in the water. We’re warning you of this because it’s really painful to accidentally kick your foot against one of those stumps.
  • Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site is pet-friendly. Go ahead and bring your dog along for the ride. Just make sure to bring a leash if you do.

 

Neskowin Ghost Forest: Current Weather

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Neskowin Ghost Forest, OR
8:33 am, May 13, 2024
broken clouds 57°F
Low: 50° High: 58°
broken clouds
Humidity Humidity 93 %
Pressure Pressure 1018 hPa
Wind 8 mph NNW
Wind Gust Wind Gust 12 mph
UV Index UV Index 1.37
Precipitation Precipitation 0 inch
Dew Point Dew Point 55°
Clouds Clouds 80%
Rain Chance Rain Chance 0%
Snow Snow 0 mm/h
Visibility Visibility 6 mi
Air Quality Air Quality Fair
Sunrise Sunrise 4:48 am
Sunset Sunset 7:36 pm
Weather Condition Comport Precipitation
Day Condition TemperatureTemperature PrecipitationAmount Rain ChanceRain Chance Wind HumidityHumidity PressurePressure
Today 12:00 pm
broken clouds broken clouds
50° | 58°°F 0 inch 0% 14 mph 83 % 1019 hPa
Tomorrow 12:00 pm
clear sky clear sky
47° | 58°°F 0 inch 0% 15 mph 71 % 1022 hPa
Wednesday 12:00 pm
scattered clouds scattered clouds
50° | 60°°F 0 inch 0% 15 mph 74 % 1020 hPa
Thursday 12:00 pm
light rain light rain
52° | 59°°F 0.01 inch 20% 12 mph 74 % 1019 hPa
Friday 12:00 pm
light rain light rain
49° | 55°°F 0.01 inch 20% 13 mph 61 % 1022 hPa
Saturday 12:00 pm
clear sky clear sky
44° | 57°°F 0 inch 0% 16 mph 61 % 1024 hPa
Sunday 12:00 pm
clear sky clear sky
44° | 57°°F 0 inch 0% 15 mph 65 % 1019 hPa
Monday 12:00 pm
light rain light rain
48° | 54°°F 0.04 inch 100% 11 mph 96 % 1015 hPa
1 to 8 of 0 results
Weather Condition Comport Precipitation
Day Condition TemperatureTemperature PrecipitationAmount Rain ChanceRain Chance Wind HumidityHumidity PressurePressure
Today 8:00 am
broken clouds broken clouds
57° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 10 mph 90 % 1018 hPa
Today 9:00 am
broken clouds broken clouds
57° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 9 mph 93 % 1018 hPa
Today 10:00 am
broken clouds broken clouds
57° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 10 mph 89 % 1018 hPa
Today 11:00 am
broken clouds broken clouds
57° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 12 mph 86 % 1019 hPa
Today 12:00 pm
broken clouds broken clouds
57° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 12 mph 83 % 1019 hPa
Today 1:00 pm
broken clouds broken clouds
58° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 11 mph 77 % 1020 hPa
Today 2:00 pm
overcast clouds overcast clouds
57° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 12 mph 75 % 1020 hPa
Today 3:00 pm
overcast clouds overcast clouds
57° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 13 mph 76 % 1020 hPa
Today 4:00 pm
overcast clouds overcast clouds
56° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 14 mph 77 % 1020 hPa
Today 5:00 pm
overcast clouds overcast clouds
55° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 14 mph 77 % 1020 hPa
Today 6:00 pm
broken clouds broken clouds
55° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 13 mph 81 % 1020 hPa
Today 7:00 pm
scattered clouds scattered clouds
53° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 12 mph 86 % 1020 hPa
1 to 8 of 0 results

 

Amenities in Neskowin

The small town of Neskowin, Oregon
Coastal vacation homes in the small town of Neskowin, Oregon.

If you like Neskowin and you’re thinking about staying around for a bit of sightseeing, there are plenty of amenities within the community to help make your time comfortable.

 

Parking

If you want some free parking, there is a public parking lot directly off of Highway 101. No pass, permit, or money is needed in order to place yourself in that area. Just make sure to look for a large painted wooden fish and you’ll know you’re in the right area; trust me, it’s not easy to miss.

Make sure to stay in this lot instead of any hotel parking lots unless you’re actually staying at a hotel. This is not just for the purpose of avoiding being towed. There are public restrooms by the parking lot, as well as a picnic table. It isn’t in the most scenic spot, but it’s good if you’re passing through town and just want to drop in and out. Come into Neskowin, have a look at the ghost forest, come back, have a picnic, and then proceed with driving out of town.

Thankfully there are also signs to lead you to the ocean. All you have to do is follow the sandy trail they point to and you’ll be at the beach in no time. Along the way, you’ll pass by Hawk Creek Café and Proposal Rock Inn, two places you might want to consider stopping by. From there, just head to Proposal Rock and you’re at the ghost forest.

 

Restaurants

Neskowin is a very small community, so they only have a few businesses. However, if you’re looking for a bite to eat, you can still find a couple places. Hawk Creek Café offers sit-down dining and has options such as burgers, pasta, and even wood-fired pizza.

Just across from Hawk Creek Café is Neskowin Trading Post. It’s great for takeaway food and drink options, and holds both a deli and a bakery. It’s perfect for a picnic, as it’s right by the beach.

The other dining options are a bit further away in Pacific City, unfortunately. However, if you still want that ocean view, as well as some food from a nice brewpub, Pelican Brewing Co. can help you out.

 

Inns

Because Neskowin is such a small community, you really only have two options: Proposal Rock Inn and Neskowin Resort. They are both right next to each other and are fairly close to the ocean. There are options for dog-friendly lodging, and amenities differ depending on which rooms you get. So, take your pick, because both are favored by visitors to the small community.

 

 

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