Cape Kiwanda

Category: General Article

Back to Three Capes Scenic Drive

GPS Coordinates: 45.217946, -123.979039

Perhaps the most popular stop along the Three Cape Scenic Drive, Cape Kiwanda is a favorite spot for surfers. Even during bad weather, you can find plenty of die-hards dressed in wetsuits running toward the cold, grey waves all along the Nestucca Spit to the south of the park’s boundary. This wide, long beach provides plenty of access for those who want to play at the ocean’s edge. Both professional and amateur fishermen also like this spit because you can launch boats directly from the beach.

Related Information: Fishing | Surfing

Fantastic Shapes, Fantastic Colors

If you’re interested in exploring the cape, head north along the Nestucca Spit until you reach some sand dunes and strange-looking rock formations. Much of the Oregon Coast is constructed of a dark volcanic rock known as basalt. These basalt formations were created about 15 million years ago when huge lava flows swept west from Idaho, covering Oregon and Washington state. But at Cape Kiwanda, the rock formations have curving shapes and are more brightly colored because they’re constructed of a softer material known as sandstone.

Sandstone is a sedimentary rock, meaning it was formed when grains of sand suspended in water slowly settled on the ocean’s bottom. Over millions of years, the weight of the water compressed the sandy layers (or sediment) into rock. The fantastic colors and shapes at Cape Kiwanda are due to the high level of colored quartz in the rock and because sandstone weathers more easily than volcanic basalt.

If you climb the sand dunes at the north end of the spit, you’ll discover some strange rock formations on the other side. Here, the forces of wind and sea have carved the sandstone into flat planes and curved edges. Shallow sea caves are lapped by emerald green water and the crooked shapes of wind-blasted trees run along the ledges above. This area is open to the public, but if you go use caution. Because sandstone is fragile, it can break away easily underfoot. Don’t cross any of the area fences as you may put yourself at risk.

Related Information: Time Traveling Through the Columbia River Gorge | Hiking