Shifting Sands Along the Washington Coast and Oregon Coast
By Jenna Boyle Feehan
Published: 02/15/2012  Updated: 06/21/2019
Gary Hayes

Shaped by wind and waves into curving ridges, coastal sand dunes are among the most dynamic and fragile natural formations.

With 139 miles of the Oregon shore (almost half of its total coastline) and the western coast of the Long Beach peninsula covered by dunes, it's easy to find one of the Pacific Northwest's many elegant sand hills. These massive formations begin where sandy beaches meet onshore winds. Sand blows inland until some obstruction slows the force of air. The sand drops, accumulation commences, and it's not long before pioneering plants begin the fight to survive in the salty, windblown, earth-shifting environment.

Head out for a walk through the dunes and you're sure to meet the ubiquitous European dune grass, frequently planted for its dune-stabilizing properties. Explore a little further and you may find some of the more charming floral varieties such as Silky Beach Pea, Yellow Sand Verbena, and Seashore Lupine. Dunes often merge with coastal rainforest where shore pine, western hemlock and Sitka spruce are able to establish roots.

Though animal sightings may be rare, look closely and you might discover tracks of rodents, raccoons, deer or coyote. Some of the largest dunes are on the southern Oregon coast near Florence and further south in Umpqua County. On the north Oregon coast, Cape Kiwanda boasts a large sand dune at the base of the cape, and Sand Lake Recreation Area along the Three Capes Scenic Route features an extensive sandy playground for off-road vehicles and some limited hiking (permits may be required). Don't miss the Northwest sand dune experience!
Shifting Sands Along the Washington Coast and Oregon Coast