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Posted on Feb 11, 2015

Adventures in Oregon: Cape Kiwanda

Another recent adventure of ours at the coast included a visit to Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City.

Cape Kiwanda in January

churning sea at Cape Kiwanda

This area is full of sandstone that has been shaped by intense waves, exposing sedimentary layers that read like a geologic coloring book.

colorful geology of Cape Kiwanda

The relentless pounding of waves against the sandstone creates some questionable areas where the edge could literally drop off should you be standing on it …. hmmmm… I’ll pass on the near-death experience, thanks!


However, standing a safe distance away still affords a pretty spectacular show of the epic clash of land and sea.

waves at Cape Kiwanda

land and sea at Cape Kiwanda

One area we climbed up led us through a teeny tiny little maritime forest- it was so small, I’m not even sure it counts as a forest. More like a sanctuary of vegetation, wind-blown but persistent. To be honest, apart from the few evergreens interspersed throughout, it felt a bit like we had walked through a portal to North Carolina, straight to Caswell Beach.

small forest at Cape Kiwanda


On this particular hike, we brought the ‘big dogs’ – Sawyer, Sasha & Annie. This was our first attempt hiking with three dogs at one time and I have to say, they impressed me. I’m not sure why I always expect the worst from our dogs. On the whole, they are very good dogs that we’ve worked hard to teach. I can count on one hand the number of times that they have really and truly disappointed me. Nevertheless, I was surprised with how well-behaved they were.

hiking with dogs at Cape Kiwanda

HIking with dogs at Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City

Just off of Cape Kiwanda sits Haystack Rock – well, actually this is one of two Haystack Rocks in Oregon (possibly three, according to several references I’ve read). The other (and more famous) Haystack Rock is in Cannon Beach, and a supposed third Haystack Rock sits somewhere in Curry County.

Haystack Rock at Cape Kiwanda

I stumbled across something rather curious when I was researching Haystack Rock to find out about its origins. Apparently, the one in Cannon Beach (~235 feet tall) is frequently touted as being the third largest monolith in the world or the third largest intertidal monolith in the world. However, the one at Cape Kiwanda is taller, somewhere in the range of 340 feet. An article I came across dug into the history of that claim and essentially came up empty-handed; they could find no basis for why it was touted as being the third largest anything. And yet, if you search for Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, you will see over and over again that it is described as the third largest monolith. Strange!

Haystack Rock at Pacific City

But back to the Haystack Rock in Cape Kiwanda. It is considered a sea stack and is believed to have come from the same lava flow that carved out the Columbia Gorge. Owing to its sturdy basalt composition, it has acted almost like a guardian for the sandstone landscape of Cape Kiwanda, effectively taking the brunt of the forceful wave action pounding the coastline. However, waves of incredible might still roar up along the rocks and it was pretty mesmerizing to watch.

waves rolling in at Cape Kiwanda

Sawyer found it quite interesting, too.


huge waves at Cape Kiwanda

Looking toward the south, we had a great view of the coastline stretching away, and with such beautiful weather, the beach had quite a few visitors.

Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City

shoreline of Cape Kiwanda

sandstone at Cape Kiwanda

The dogs were such good sports, waiting patiently while I took pictures and we oohed and aahed at the tremendous waves. Of course, I had to snap their pictures, too.


Sweet Sasha did her best to be teacher’s pet while Annie was more of the ‘just get this picture over with’ mindset (she takes after me, I guess).


And Sawyer, of course, did his usual eye-blink-at-the-last-second pose.


Even though none of the dogs are looking toward the camera in the photo below, this has to be one of my favorites ever because of the way Sasha is looking at me. In reality, she is probably looking at me, hoping for the slightest indication that we can get up and continue our hike …. but I prefer to think that it’s a look that says ‘I love you.’


Next up, we continue on to Cape Lookout, so be sure to check back for the next installment!


Other posts in the series:

Adventures in Oregon: Willamette National Forest

Adventures in Oregon: Newport

Adventures in Oregon: Rooster Rock Trail

Adventures in Oregon: Cape Perpetua

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