Part of the thrill of walking on the intertidal lava rocks near Cape Perpetua in Oregon is to watch the seething currents offshore. If I stood too close to shore’s edge, a sneaker wave could easily claim me victim. Yet, there are sheltered tidepools that are a remarkable contrast to the chaos nearby.
Devil’s Churn is a narrow channel that opened up when a lava tube collapsed ages ago. Now, waves go barreling down the chasm and can build enough energy to create monster spouts that can and have claimed the lives of unwary victims.
Devil’s Churn, Cape Perpetua, Oregon
One of the most thrilling shows along the Oregon coast is the Devil’s Churn, part of the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. At high tide, or better yet when there is a windstorm, waves of water come crashing through a narrow chasm fractured out of the basalt. As you can imagine, under “ideal” conditions, great plumes of sea water spew up with tremendous force, enough to make it dangerous to be standing near the edge. On less dramatic days, the waters still splash up along the sides of the chasm and swirl violently offshore. There is a short footpath down to the attraction from the parking lot above.
We missed seeing this area up close on our last coastal trip. There were light winds today, so there wasn’t any need to be fearful or overly cautious, though walking on the uneven, extremely rugged basaltic rock had its own problems. The fact that Devil’s Churn terminates in a cave leads geologists to think that the chasm once had a roof over it that collapsed sometime in the geologic past, perhaps at one time a lava tube.
Devil’s Churn Overlook (Cape Perpetua Scenic Area)
GPS coordinates of parking lot (44.2838, -124.1096)