Remote Geological Calamities Shape An Area Of Great Natural Beauty At Copalis Beach

Dated: 07/20/2017

Views: 374

Copalis River

Copalis Beach, Washington

The area around the obscure, declining town of Copalis Beach on the Washington Coast nonetheless contains a collection of remarkable and little-known attractions. The area was shaped by ice age runoff, ocean erosion, and an astonishing earthquake and massive tsunami in historical times. The list of sights includes:

  • Copalis Rock - A lone seastack rock off of Copalis Beach. The next nearest seastacks are found 25 miles to the north at Point Grenville and Tillamook Rock at 100 miles to the south in Oregon. At an extreme low tide you can walk out to Copalis Rock and touch it. The lower 15 feet are covered by clusters of mussels and giant yellow and purple starfish.

  • Turn around from the Rock and look at the 200 foot high cliffs of sand topped by windswept spruce trees. Realize that all of that sand and debris - from that point and miles out into the ocean - washed down from the Olympic Mountains at the end of the last Ice Age. The glaciers came close to this area, but did not quite make it.

  • Copalis State Airport - The only official airport in the lower 48 states where airplanes (small ones) may land on the beach. Warning signs tell beachgoers to watch the skies. RoadsideAmerica.com accepted by submission about this location.

  • Copalis Ghost Forest - Known among researchers as "the best example of a ghost forest in the world", the ghost forest was created in the year 1700, when a 9.0+ earthquake along the Cascadia subduction zone lowered the level of the land and allowed the ocean to flood the forest. 300 foot high dead spruce trees still stand to this day along the river banks. The ghost forest can only be reached by boat about two miles inland from the town. The date of the tsunami is known exactly through tree ring data and records in Japan, where they have tracked every tsunami wave for centuries.  In Japan they recorded a six foot wave shortly after the 9.0 Cascadia earthquake.

  • Copalis Spit - Contained within the Griffith-Priday State Park, the spit is little visited and one of the loneliest spots on this section of the coast. From the parking lot you can wade across Connor Creek (two feet deep in July and August) or walk a quarter mile south to the new Connor Creek Bridge.

A Beach Walk at Sunset on the Copalis Spit

On our visit to the Copalis Spit one evening before sunset in July 2017, we walked to the river mouth, chased a giant flock sandpipers, and enjoyed the marvelous view. A surprise aerial visitor flew overhead, circled the rock, and disappeared back south toward Ocean Shores.Copalis Beach and the nearby Ocean Shores feature the closest sandy ocean beaches to Seattle.

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