#214–Mighty big waves . . .


More than once during the year, we get mighty big waves. That’s especially true in December and January. These are usually caused by storms out at sea that generate large swells that create larger than normal waves. And sometimes they are colossal.

The absolute best spot on the entire Oregon Coast to see these waves is Shore Acres State Park. Sometimes they splash 100-feet high against the rocky bluff. And, yes, you have to stand back or you will be splashed with seawater and possibly washed out to sea.

Every year a few folks meet this fate—not necessarily at Shore Acres but at various places along the coast. And every year the Oregon State Parks, Oregon Coast magazine, and radio and TV stations do their part in warning people.

I heard on the radio on January 19 that the waves were expected to splash up to 60-feet high in some places. Well, I couldn’t get down to Shore Acres that day or the next. For me, that’s a three-hour round trip. So on Sunday, the swells were still going to be strong with high waves predicted, so I headed for Yachats. That’s a much quicker half-hour drive.


The village of Yachats is in the distance, and this photo is taken from the scenic drive just south of town on a normal day  at low tide with no high wave action.

The waves would not be as high as Shore Acres, but I would be able to sit in my car and watch and take photos. I often stop by the scenic drive just south of town. It’s one of my favorite spots along the coast. I think it’s called Ocean Drive, the name has changed in recent years. It’s a loop drive that connects with Hwy 101 just as you enter Yachats from the south and the other end connects back to 101 just before the bridge across the Yachats River.So I got out my tide table, set for Yaquina Bay, and guesstimated when the high tide would be in Yachats. On this particular day, it would be shortly before 3 p.m. So I planned to arrive about 2:30 p.m.

The weather report for the day was stormy weather with 50 mph winds and big waves. What we actually got was a gentle breeze, no rain, and sun and clouds. What storm? This was nicer than many summer afternoons, when the wind at the beach makes you feel like you’re being sandblasted.


The waves were ferocious and the gulls hunkered down, taking it all in stride.

On the drive between Florence and Yachats, I could see that the waves were big. There were lots of folks at Cooks Chasm at Cape Perpetua as I went by, but only a couple of cars where I was going. I parked so that I could see both north and south. The waves here were really big and the sea frothy all the way out beyond the breakers. Very exciting! The gulls were hunkered down, taking it in stride. Lots of waves sent out huge sprays as they hit the rocks. Not 60-feet high, but still impressive. Of course on those, I was always just a tad too late with my camera.

I timed it right as far as arrival time. As the waves broke closer and closer, it became more and more exciting. This lasted for about a half hour. Then high tide peaked, and the intensity slacked off. I’m always surprised at how quickly waves recede after high tide.


I loved this shot of the lone gull resting on one leg, while the ocean churned all around.

Also, as the waves got larger and larger, more and more cars appeared. By the time I left, not many place were left to park.

On my way home, there were some empty spaces at Cooks Chasm, so I pulled in. Here you have to get out of your car to see anything. So I got out and looked over the wall. I noticed lots of nice wave action, but I had two spots I wanted to check out. From here, I could see Thor’s Well, and it was at its best. This round configuration appears as though the water all the way around is emptying through a hole in the ocean. It’s fascinating and great fun to watch. The other spot is the spouting horn. I walked over to the actual chasm, and it was doing its thing. Clearly high tide had passed; I’d seen it shoot much higher in the past. Still it’s always fun to see a big wave coming in and to watch for the spouting horn to appear.

I headed home very glad that I’d made the effort to enjoy the high waves. After all, this is one of the reasons that living at the coast is so special.

About crossingsauthor

Judy Fleagle spent 22 years teaching 1st and 2nd grades and 21 years as editor/staff writer with Oregon Coast and Northwest Travel magazines.Since 2009, she has written five books: "Crossings: McCullough's Coastal Bridges," "The Crossings Guide to Oregon's Coastal Spans," "Around Florence," "Devil Cat and Other Colorful Animals I Have Known," and "The Oregon Coast Guide to the UNEXPECTED!!!."
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