Photo of a water spout and rainbow from the surf in Depoe Bay, Oregon

Weekly Gem #181 A pot o'basalt is at the end of this rainbow

Published 1/12/2019

Location: This hidden gem is located at the intersection of Collins Street and the Pacific Ocean, in Depoe Bay, Oregon (see the Clue Me! Map). Or, from a geological point of view, it's the intersection of three remarkably coincidental lava flows and the Pacific Ocean. There are two 'spouting horns' at this intersection, which regularly shoot water 40 to 50 feet straight up. With the sun behind you, and vigorous wave action in front of you, rainbow after rainbow forms, sometimes even enveloping you as the mist blows ashore. 

As you watch the water carrying the rainbow upward, then retreating so you can see the colors, you might wonder. How is it that we can come right here, year after year, and see these spouts? It all comes back to those three lava flows. If you picture Hawaii today, you have a sense of the Oregon coast of 15 million years ago. Lava would flow, then cool, then more would come, sometimes on top, sometimes beside, always pushing into the Pacific in irregular shapes and patterns.

In Depoe Bay it was more of the same, except for three tiny but noteworthy coincidences that created this rainbow. A small flow of lava to the north, tiny in comparison with others, but it pushes westward and then south, into the ocean. Another flow of lava, just to the south, also tiny, pushes westward and then north. The points of lava almost touched, but they ran out of 'steam' just two hundred feet from each other.

Put your arms out in front of you like you're holding a big beach ball, so that your fingers don't quite touch. Your hands are those two lava flows, and behind them is this nice little cove. But then comes the third and last lava flow, right in between the first two, inexorably filling the small cove and almost spilling out into the Pacific. But this last flow also runs out of steam going just far enough to touch the 'wrists' on each side.

If you zoom in on a map of Depoe Bay, you can easily see the two 'horns' of water that were left behind. Zoom in until you can see a curved parking area, which is right on top of that third lava flow. The 'horns' of water are on either size of the parking area. Waves push into those horns, get compressed, and there's nowhere to go except up.


Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.


"Thar She Blows!"


Spouting Horn

Why It's Interesting

This is an exciting and safe way to see the power of the ocean. Over the years, the ocean has chiseled out nooks and crannies in the rocky shores. Waves then force water into these openings and with no where else to go, the water shoots up into magnificent spouts - and on sunny days, magnificent rainbows!

Related Gems