This sculptured rock is captivating, so I have arranged to visit it several times over the last few years. On September 1, 2015, it looked like this at summer’s end when the sand on Oregon beaches is typically at its highest level, or nearly so.
Sand accumulation followed by erosion is a timeless cycle. The summer and fall’s low energy water (e.g., small gentle waves) deposits beach sand, while wild winter surf and backwash remove it. For example, contrast the image above with the same rock on February 1, 2022, when winter’s surf and surge have washed away a remarkable amount of beach sand.
The sand removal was so extreme I barely recognized the rock in real-time on the beach. So, to help with the comparison, I’ve drawn a dotted line showing the level of the summer 2015 sand.
If you’re like me, it’s not hard to get lulled into thinking of the beach as a stable place, but the sand is constantly in motion, and the cycle of sand accumulation and erosion plays a significant role in the dynamism of beaches. The process is predictable enough to expect beaches to be most expansive in the summer (look up at the distant breakers in the 2015 image—both images are low tide shots) and narrowest in the winter when the underlying boulders and cobbles become exposed by sand loss. (‘Course, it’s a general expectation, not clockwork.)