Saturday, July 05, 2014

Nye Beach

Nye Beach in Newport is a great case study in coastal erosion and landslides. To non-geologists, the only clue besides historical signs and accounts may be the foundation of the condominiums perched on the edge of the bluff at Jumpoff Joe. Geologists, on the other hand, might recognize the characteristic slump topography along the bluffs and the unusual outcrops on the beach below.

Jumpoff Joe refers to a long-gone headland that jutted out to sea just north of the relic condos. Historic photos show a major projection complete with a large arch. Apparently it was a significant impediment to travel along the beach, requiring people to climb over and jump down somewhere on the other side.


A long stretch of this bluff has slid historically, aided in part by seaward-dipping sedimentary layers in the underlying geology (a frequent contributor to coastal landslides). Early development on the down-dropped block was destroyed by sliding and erosion.The British call these landslide benches the undercliff - tempting, but often disastrous, places to build. A remnant knoll between the two large slide blocks was the site of this ill-fated effort to build condos in the early 1980s - now memorialized by the incidental concrete viewing platform.

Paul Komar dedicates an entire chapter to Jumpoff Joe in The Pacific Northwest Coast (Duke 1997). One of the lessons of Jumpoff Joe is a simple reminder of the dynamic nature of coastlines and our willingness to overlook this when it comes to developing coastal property. A corollary lesson is that any developer can find a consultant wiling to write a favorable report, no matter how evident the underlying problems.

For those interested in the history of Nye Beach and Jumpoff Joe, Wikipedia is a good starting point (Wikipedia is often a good starting point, but sometimes not a good place to stop). There are also some nice historical images of the 19th century coastline and of the early 20th century buildings if you dig a little deeper (Google's image search is a helpful tool).

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