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Sea Stack Sentinels
Published: 09/17/2009
 
Gary Hayes

Sea stacks, those intriguing rocky spires that create dramatic seascapes when struck by thundering waves, punctuate many areas along the 360 miles of Oregon coastline.

Bandon's beach wouldn't be quite so interesting without Face Rock and Cat and Kittens. One can hardly read a story about Cape Kiwanda or Cannon Beach without a mention of their respective Haystack Rocks. Three Arch Rocks lie a half mile off Oceanside and consist of three large rocks and six smaller ones. At Rockaway Beach, Twin Rocks rise from the sea in morning fog like two ghostly wraiths, and the Three Graces add a special dimension to a sunset on Tillamook Bay. It took nature millions of years and great force to create these spectacular sea stacks. Some of the vertical columns were once part of a headland, but the constant wearing of the ocean's waves eroded thinner and softer areas around a harder core, isolating it from the mainland. Many stacks were the result of volcanic action, with lava flowing to the sea. Cooling lava became hardened basalt over time. The heavy basalt remained buried under marine sediments for millions of years. As the climate shifted and sea level receded, the rocks were revealed and parts worn away by winds and water. Tidepools at the base of many sea stacks provide habitat for a variety of marine creatures. Soil has settled into crevices of some of the sea stacks, building up a soft layer perfect for nesting puffins, murres and other seabirds. Man is working with nature by preserving these precious sites as part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. All sea stacks are federally protected and are closed to public access. - By Stella Bennett

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