Sunset Bay: Up Close and Personal… The North Coast Series

Millions of years ago, Sunset Bay was part of a large delta where layer after layer of silt, sand, and marine deposits were laid down over eons creating sedimentary rocks. Once flat, these layers were tilted upward by plate tectonics as the Pacific plate crashed into and sank under the North America continent.

Millions of years ago, Sunset Bay was part of a large delta where layer after layer of silt, sand, and marine deposits were laid down over eons, creating sedimentary rocks. Once flat, these layers were tilted upward by plate tectonics as the Pacific plate crashed into and sank under the North America continent. Varying layers of hard and soft rock attacked by waves, wind, storms and salt crystals have created beautiful rock sculptures like this one.


Landscape photography is known for its grand views. I enjoy those views, always, but I am also intrigued by small things that catch my eye, a leaf perhaps, or a rock. Today I am going to focus more on the ‘up close and personal’ part of Sunset Bay and Shore Acres State Parks on the Oregon coast as well as touch on the geology of the area. This is my Friday photographic essay. Enjoy.


Sedimentary rock warn down by waves at Sunset Bay State Park on the Oregon Coast.

A close up of the tilted sedimentary rock shown in the opening photo. The holes in the rock at the right, BTW, are created by growing salt crystals from salt left behind by tides and waves. Algae grows on the sides of the holes and limits the growth of the crystals, thus creating the rounded shapes.

Another view. The white rocks have broken free from on of the tilted layers of sedimentary rock.

I found this view of the weathered sedimentary rocks at Sunset Bay fascinating. The late afternoon sun added the color. The white rocks had broken free from one of the sedimentary layers.

Sedimentary layers of rocks create tracks into Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast.

Here, the sedimentary layers stretch out along the beach creating a ‘path.’

Coastline of Shore Acres Park on the Oregon Coast near Coos Bay, Oregon.

The next door Shore Acres State Park provides a different perspective on the erosive forces of nature on the tilted sandstone and siltstone rocks.

Erosion at Shore Acres State Park on the Oregon Coast.

A different perspective of the Shore Acres coastline.

Concretion rock found in Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast near Coos Bay.

This weird rock is known as a concretion. Calcite forms around a small object such as a broken shell. Layer after layer is applied (think pearl in an oyster) until you get a rock like this.

Concretions found on the beach of Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast.

If one is good, more are better, right?

Ancient spruce roots at Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast near Coos Bay.

I figured this was just driftwood on the beach until I did some research. Apparently, this is the root system of an ancient spruce. A massive earthquake struck approximately 1200 years ago and sank major portions of the coast, covering local forests with water. The earthquake was the result of plate tectonics where the Pacific Plate is crashing up against and sinking under the North American continent. Known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone along the Oregon coast, this geological region is still active today and is threatening a major earthquake in the not too distant future. Coastal communities are all involved in disaster planning. We are told that if the Applegate Dam above our house breaks, flood waters will crest right about where we live, even though we are high above the river.

Just for fun, I found this ivy leaf adding a splash of green to the beach.

Just for fun, I found this ivy leaf adding a splash of green to the beach.

A rock added a dash of color...

A rock added a dash of yellow…

A rock with a barnacle found on Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast.

Another yellow rock, which is part of an exposed sedimentary layer, displays a single barnacle.

Barnacles attached to a rock at Sunset Bay State Park on the Oregon Coast.

This one had a whole tribe of barnacles.

Sea anemones found in a tide pool at Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast near Coos Bay.

Ever since I was a little kid visiting with my grandparents on the Central California coast, I have been unable to resist tide pools. These are sea anemones— an oldster and a youngster. The tentacles carry a toxin that is injected into prey such as a small fish. The prey is then moved to the center and stuffed into its mouth, which also serves as its anus, a fact I am sure you were just dying to learn!

Seaweed on the beach at Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast.

This seaweed exists in the intertidal zone and is built with dense root system to grab onto rocks and withstand crashing waves. Recent storm had succeeded in breaking this one free. Tracks show that a seagull has stopped by to check it out. I also liked the reflection captured by water that barely covers the sand.

Another reflection shot, which includes seagulls.

Another reflection shot, which includes seagulls.

Seagull at Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast near Coos Bay.

And a seagull up close with a touch of attitude that says feed me! Check out the knobby knees.

Dead tree with impressing root system on Sunset Bay near Coos Bay on the Oregon Coast.

Peggy has roots. This magnificent tree has been on the beach for a while.

Downed tree with roots reaching skyward on the beach at Sunset Bay State Park.

Another view.

Natural root sculpture food at Shore Acres State Park on the Oregon Coast.

I’ll use this fantastic creature that lives next door in Shore Acres State Park to wrap up today’s photo essay blog. I’ve used this jumble of roots in a previous blog.

Monday’s Blog: Revolutionary Boston and its message for today. Peggy and I were just there and walked the Revolutionary Trail. “Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.” —Longfellow

Wednesday’s Blog: The Sierra Trek Part 3— Meet the incredible cast of characters that sign up to go; travel with Steve and me as we preview the route and Steve pees around the camp to scare away bears.

Friday’s Blog: It’s time to start thinking about Burning Man! Sign up is in February. For the next few weeks, I’ll be digging into my archive of thousands of Burning Man photos taken over a ten-year period for my Friday photograph essays.

My apologies to all of my blog friends for my slowness in responding to comments and tardiness in reading blogs over the past month. I will catch up. After a month of travel and visiting family (including five grandsons) on the East Coast, Peggy and I returned to some of the same weather that many of you have been facing. Our property was buried under two feet of snow. As a result, much of my time has been spent shoveling snow off of driveways and roofs, dealing with power outages and frozen pipes, and trying to persuade a roaring creek that it does not want to run down our driveway. Some fun! We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, however. Or at least the dirt under the snow.




38 thoughts on “Sunset Bay: Up Close and Personal… The North Coast Series

  1. Curth, these are stunning photographs and I feel much more learned now! Fascinating to read abou the non-driftwood ancient tree roots. Hope you are successfully emerging from all that snow…England has had a sprinkling of the beautiful white powder and as always the country nearly ground to a halt!

    • Thanks, Annika. I always enjoy researching the areas I travel through, plus I have had a fascination with geology ever since I put together a rock collection as a kid. As a little boy, I used to come home from walks with my pockets so stuffed with rocks that pants were almost falling off! 🙂 –Curt

  2. I had wondered if you were affected by the weather out there. Clearly, the answer is, “Yes!” I’m becoming more interested in geology, so this series is particularly interesting to me. There’s so much I don’t understand about everything from plate techtonics to the assortment of geologic eras, but the remains always are fascinating — like those roots.

    Like you, I enjoy the small details, and that yellow rock is a perfect one.

    • A yellow rock has shown up in one of our flower gardens that looks suspiciously like the one on the coast. I’m thinking Peggy… I’ve always been interested in geology, Linda. I even took a couple of courses in college. I remember our professor at Berkeley coming in one day in 1963 and saying, “We have this exciting new theory. The earth is made up of plates that float on the mantle.” I have a number of roadside geology books for different states. They are always fun to travel with. –Curt

    • We lucked out on the pipes, AC. They froze without bursting and I was able to unfreeze them with a hair dryer. 🙂 BTW, your post came up, I typed a response, and then got a message that it was a duplicate. It wasn’t. I’ll try again. –Curt

  3. Great photos. I have randomly done earthquake planning for the state. In doing so I have developed a healthy earthquake fear for the cascadia! Do take care.

    And good luck with all the snow. We are flooding like crazy down here.

  4. I had to hold my hand back from reaching out to touch the screen. So much wonderful texture in these gorgeous photos. I am smiling to think of seeing more of Burning Man through your lens Curt. That series was incredible last year.

    • You are welcome. It is fun for me as well, Ginette. I’ve always loved natural history, and have books on everything from geology to scat! Plus in this day and age, there is the Internet. –Curt

  5. A great coastal journey and fantastic photography. Here in Australia we are having a heatwave and the elderly are supposed to stay indoors and drink water. Unusual for our Highland region to have this heat and 100% humidity. Just keep shovelling the snow, Curt. I gives a cooling thought.

    • Thanks, Gerard. Peggy and I have every intention of spending much more time on the coast this year.
      Sounds like some elderly I know didn’t follow those directions in Sydney. 🙂 100%? Wow! Most of our summer heat around here is of the dry type. –Curt

  6. A great set of photos Curt. My favourites are the seaweed and the one below it. Hope you’ve managed to dig your way out by now. Vancouver has had record snow this winter. Snow for weeks in a city that usually only gets a couple of brief dumps per winter.

    • Thanks Alison. Both of those photos were taken at the same time and only involved me living my camera. 🙂
      Isn’t Global Warming fun? (Not so much.) But you never know what the weather is going to do next. –Curt

  7. Your photographs are magnificent Curt ~ we so enjoyed them. I really love all the rock formations and tide pool shots. The photo of Peggy is a stunner too. Well, she IS.

    Wow that snow sounds quite something… Hope you are getting some sun and maybe that will help to melt some of it. We head to Chicago in February to visit family and I am hoping for some snow while we are there. I know we are pretty crazy to go in winter and I hope that we do not regret it. HA, famous last words. However, when you live all the time in the tropics a bit of snow could be a nice treat for us.

    Gorgeous post. Love it.

    • First, thanks Peta. “Magnificent” photos are much easier in a magnificent place. And I’ve passed your kind words on to Peggy. 🙂
      Up until now, the snow here at our house in Oregon has been of the gentle type, just enough to be beautiful and last for a day before it melts. It was a bit more challenging this time. 🙂 Having lived in Alaska and also having access to a cabin in the Sierras where we used to have to enter through a second story because the first story was buried under snow, I’ve seen much worse. I also lived in the tropics, however. And I recall a few interesting times! Chicago may very well have snow. But I can pretty much guarantee it will be windy and cold— unless global warming decides otherwise. –Curt

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