Crash Course: Wave Watching on the Coast of Oregon & Washington
By Cyndi Mudge
Published: 02/11/2012  Updated: 06/21/2019

The power of the ocean is thunderous, dramatic and wet. Wave watchers delight in the shower of ocean spray and foam as it hits the headlands or boils through the spouting horns at Depoe Bay, Oregon. There are many places to witness this awesome sight along the North Oregon Coast or Southwest Washington Coast.

At Cape Disappointment in Ilwaco, Washington, waves roll into the mouth of the Columbia River and collide ferociously on this dramatic headland. The best views are from the north jetty parking areas where you can see the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. When the surf is really up, waves disintegrate into a foamy explosion.

In Oregon there are many wave watching opportunities with adrenalin-infused names such as Boiler Bay, Spouting Horns and Devil's Punchbowl. Wave chasers may want to begin their travels at Ecola State Park in Cannon Beach. From here you can see Haystack Rock and the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. These off-shore rock formations provide a solid base for wave action. Farther south is Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City, where a hike up the sand dunes to the top of the cape is rewarded with views of waves exploding on the sheer sandstone cliffs to the north.

Devil's Punchbowl at Otter Rock, is a frothy cauldron of boiling waves that churn inside an unusual rock formation. Geologists believe it was created when the roof of adjoining sea caves collapsed, creating a foamy whirlpool of salt water.

Boiler Bay, located just north of Depoe Bay, actually earned its name from a 1910 shipwreck whose steam boiler can still be seen at low tides. But this place could rightfully be named for the turbulent waters that send waves crashing high into the air. On this small point of land, you can practically stand next to spectacular breaking waves as they roll into the bay. The rocky spurs surrounding the bay provide an exciting backdrop of wild wave action.

The Spouting Horns at Depoe Bay are some of the most dramatic displays of wild waves anywhere. The spouts of water, foam and mist shoot high into the air, sometimes 60 feet, as the waves running beneath underwater lava beds and hollow lava tubes are released with tremendous force. During stormy weather or especially turbulent seas, the pressure builds, resulting in shooting towers of water that sometimes drench passersby and rain down on cars driving along Highway 101. Bring your rain gear if you plan on watching this show up close from the Depoe Bay seawall.
Crash Course: Wave Watching on the Coast of Oregon & Washington