Time and Tide and the Oregon Dunes

November 05, 2018

Oredunes465c_08sept18 (1)

Oredunes463c_08sept18 (1)

Photographer: Ray Boren 
Summary Author: Ray Boren 

For millions of years the Pacific Ocean and what is today’s Oregon coast have splashed and clashed, as the Coast Mountain Range eroded and contributed ingredients to an impressive 40 mi (64.4 km) stretch of wind-sculpted sand between the communities of Coos Bay and Florence, Oregon. In 1972, the U.S. Congress designated this elongated wonder — the most extensive coastal sand dune complex in North America — as the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area managed as part of the Siuslaw National Forest.

Enthusiasts riding dune buggies, motorcycles and other off-highway vehicles (OHVs) zoom up, over and along many of the ocean-side sand hills and open areas, as in the photo above, taken on Sept. 7, 2018, under cirrus cloud-streaked skies at Umpqua Beach, south of Winchester Bay. But, as a second image taken that day from atop a nearby seaside foredune shows, the 31,500 acre (12, 748 hectares) recreation area is also attractive to beachcombers, hikers, equestrians, kayakers, campers, picnickers and those who enjoy observing native birds and wildlife.

The Coast Mountain Range uplifted about 12 million years ago, and as its sedimentary rocks have eroded and been moved downstream to the Pacific, they have been ground down to vast quantities of sand, the U.S. Forest Service explains. The shoreline, shaped by changing sea levels, ocean currents, tides, rivers and coastal winds, stabilized over the past 6,000 years, mounding the dunes — some up to 500 ft (152 m) tall — as well as creating wetlands, dune-bound freshwater lakes, and forested tree islands.

The Oregon Dunes also have had a wider cultural impact: In the 1950s, while researching a magazine article about efforts to stabilize the dunes, writer Frank Herbert conceived a messianic novel about an entire planet with such a landscape: The 1965 science fiction epic (and subsequent series), "Dune."

Photo Details: Top - Camera: NIKON D3200; Exposure Time: 0.0020s (1/500); Aperture: ƒ/11.0; ISO equivalent: 320; Focal Length (35mm): 18. Bottom - same except: ISO equivalent: 250.