Northwest Wave Watching

Got down on the Oregon Coast for a few days in mid December, and happened to catch some wild waves in Depoe Bay, OR.

High tides and howling winds battered the shoreline, spattering storm watchers and sending seawater onto vehicles traveling along the highway 101.

A Horn that Spouts?

Depoe Bay’s waterfront features an interesting natural feature called a “spouting horn”. Basically it’s a small opening on the top of a sea cave… kinda like a whale’s blowhole!

It works when a sufficiently powerful wave is focused into the cave, sending a geyser of seawater out of the “spouting horn” and high into the air.

To catch the wildest waves, one must become a sort of amateur oceanographer and meteorologist, watching and waiting for a perfect storm of high tide and raging seas.

Forty feet or better if it was a foot!

Watching the undulating waves is mesmerizing; one might feel like an aspiring sea psychic, looking to the waves for clues to predict when the spouting horn will emit it’s mightiest Neptunian toots.

Transfixed, I watched as wave after wave collided. Then as a deep trough in the pattern opened up and was suddenly filled by a rushing cataclysm of saltwater and seafoam, forcing thousands of gallons into the sea cave below.

A rainbow of rain slicker clad revelers had gathered, marveling in a hushed awe as the resulting jet of ivory exploded from the spouting horn and into the stormy heavens.


Their trance broken by the visceral slap of the salty geyser coming back down onto the rocks. Even over the enveloping roar of wind and wave, the satisfying slap drew the applause of the brine faced onlookers. Who are they clapping for?!

Respite from the sideways rain was fleeting, but the unwavering crowd stood steadfast against the storm. I was wearing blue jeans and they were SOAKED, so I was ready to go!

Just north of town there was a miraculous break in the tempestuous weather, which enticed us to pull over at Boiler Bay to catch a deceptively warm looking sunset.


Winter brings the King Tides to the northwest; extreme high tides that occur beginning in early winter.

If these tides happen to coincide with some ugly weather…

There will be some waves! …and possibly serious erosion and flooding.

Be aware!

The first surge was from Dec 21st – 23rd, but they’ll be two others in the coming months:

January 20-22 will bring the second round of King Tides to northwest beaches.

February 18-20 will be the last chance to catch the King Tides until the next winter!


‘King Tides’ would make a pretty good local sports team name!

Any northwest coastal town looking for a new moniker? Coos Bay? Illwaco? How about Edmonds?

“It’s a King Tides kind of day!”

(you’d have to be familiar with the Edmonds town bumper sticker.)

Who says it’s gotta be a coastal town? How about Moses Lake King Tides? or Grand Coulee King Tides?!

Wait! Moses Lake Potato Lords! Now that’s a team name if I’ve ever heard one!

…and I don’t even like sports!


Damon Point

That's the big water.
That’s the big water.

Wind, waves and wildlife are all found in abundance at Ocean Shore’s Damon Point!

The walk is self-guided (no-trail) and is approximately four miles around the entire peninsula.

Spawn till you die!
Spawn till you die!

Alternatively, an abandoned road leads to the center of the vegetated area. It can be hard to see unless you are on top of it, but I assure you it’s there. This makes travel into the peninsula’s heart far easier, and less environmentally intrusive. (Aside from the road’s very being there of course)

The interior is mostly beach grass and Scotch Broom with a few hardier native species sprinkled around for good measure. There are small marshes and channels interspersed as well, so watch your step.

Beachcombing will undoubtedly turn up lots of driftwood, shells, agates and other interesting odds and ends.

Many parts of the surf zone have a deep relief change resulting in dramatic waves when conditions are right. Surf’s up dood!


Currently (as of 2015) there exists a driftwood beach shack at the southern end, which can make a great place to get out of the wind and have a picnic.

On clear days Damon Point offers views of the Olympics, Westport and even Mt.Rainier.


This place is a bird watchers paradise!

Deep inside the Scotch Broom
Deep inside the Scotch Broom

Many species of sea and shorebirds frequent the area such as the ‘Near-threatened’ Snowy Plover.

Streaked Horned Lark are a threatened species which use the point for nesting, for this reason the DNR has erected signs around the perimeter of the peninsula’s vegetated center closing the area off to wanderers from March 1st- September 15th.

Staying out during this time isn’t just a courtesy, it’s the law.


Probably the most famous avian visitors to Damon Point are the Snowy Owls, which can occasionally congregate on the windswept spit in the winter months. This in turn can attract throngs of bird watchers, which serves to attract bird watcher watchers, and the watchers who watch them. Lots of watching going on here.


Artistic flora
Artistic flora

Seriously. It happens…maybe.

Deer, if you didn’t notice on the drive in, are found in ridiculous numbers on the Ocean Shores peninsula, and the Scotch Broom forest of Damon Point is no exception.


As mentioned before, at one time a road spanned into the heart of the park, but has since been destroyed by raging storms. You can still walk the remains of it to the Ye olde abandoned parking area. Oooh scary!

In the early 1960s the S.S. Catala served as a “Boatel” in Ocean Shores, before being run ashore at Damon Point by the New Year’s Day Storm of ’65.

There it languished until the 1980’s, when a girl fell through the ship’s deteriorated deck, breaking her back. The resulting lawsuit forced the state to cut the wreck apart and bury it.

S.S. Catala
S.S. Catala

In the 1990’s the wreck was exhumed by winter storms, with subsequent storms revealing more and more of the wreckage.

In 2006, a hiker noticed oil leaking from the badly rusted hull. In response, the state department of ecology remediated the site, ultimately removing 34,500 gallons of heavy fuel oil and all traces of the S.S. Catala.


Dog walking is a popular activity at Damon Point, but please keep your dog on a leash, and especially out of the vegetated swaths of the park.

Ground nesting birds and dogs don’t mix.

Unfortunately garbage is abundant. Bottles, derelict fishing gear, shoes, socks, the kitchen sink… There is a lot washed up from the Pacific and from years of careless visitors.


Reasonable accomodation
Just came on the market!

If you think ahead, do a good thing and bring a garbage bag to pack out some of the crap.

You’ll probably notice that the garbage cans onsite are often overflowing with floatsam and jetsam, so take the trash with you.

Ask a local business to use their dumpster, they’ll likely oblige and appreciate your hard work.

Storm watching can be a fun activity for some of us, but bear in mind that high tide and high surf can easily send breakers right across the point. After all, in this article alone they have already beached a boat and destroyed a road!

You could be sent across along with them…


Find your way to Ocean Shores, WA.

Enter Ocean Shores via the fabulous 1960’s era white stone gateway. This is Point Brown Avenue.

Simply follow it south until you see the scary derelict hotel, then look for parking.



No pass required for parking!

The park is Day-use only, dawn to dusk.

The only other red tape is the annual March 1st-September 15th travel ban through the park’s interior areas to protect threatened nesting sites.



…and of course, Happy Trails!

Wilson's Warning
Wilson’s Warning