Ghost in the Sand
For more than 100 years, Oregonians have speculated about the origin of an upright, giant tree stump protruding from the beach of a surf-zone along the Central OR Coast.
This stump is the most northern known individual tree of its species, the giant California Redwood. It is 200cm wide and today has roughly 230cm (7.5’) revealed above the sand. It was over 150 years old at the time of its death, some 1720 to 1820 years ago. Being located on the Central Oregon coast it’s a bit of a mystery how it came to be here; 257 km from the northern limit of its native distribution.
Two likely theories exist: 1. An ancient redwood forest might have grown here before the present beach was formed, or 2. It had drifted north from California and somehow got planted in a vertical position. These theories point to possible pretty scary situations, climate change and/or activity from The Cascadia Subduction Zone and tsunamis.
Just how old is it? How did it come to be here? Could it have grown this far beyond its present range? If it was part of an ancient forest, where are the remains of the forest? If its driftwood, how did it come to be in an upright position? And how has it been preserved for hundreds of years, pounded by ocean waves and winter storms? Most importantly, does it tell us something about the changing Oregon shoreline? If it grew in its present location there has likely been massive environmental or climatic change... The mystery is ongoing; it has not been solved!
Here’s what we know so far:
According to coastal Native Americans, the stump existed long before the coming of the white settlers. In the old days when traveling north or south local tribe members would always throw in a shell when they passed—sort of a tollgate. They also said that their ancestors remembered seeing the old stump emerge from the bluff—by erosion.
Summary findings from a study conducted by the University of Oregon -
We found that the age of a large upright coast redwood stump on the shore platform of the Central Oregon Coast (1820–1720 cal yr BP) is very similar to the reported ages of in situ beach stumps at two
sites to the north. It’s very good preservation is consistent with an historical account of the stump associated with a paleosol that has since been eroded. However, we failed to obtain strong support via additional fossil or paleosol evidence of redwood populations. The alternative hypothesis, that the stump was deposited in an upright position in a tsunami or storm, is difficult to support. We are not aware of similarly tall, upright, emplaced stumps. Therefore, the balance of evidence suggests that the stump is a remnant of an extinct late-Holocene disjunct population of redwood trees.
*If anyone is interested in reading the whole research paper let me know and I’ll pass it on to you!