Thor’s Well Photograph, Cape Perpetua National Scenic Area, near Yachats, Oregon
Thor’s Well is on of the defining features of Oregon’s magical coast. Located in the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, two miles south of Yachats, Oregon, Thor’s Well is best viewed at or near High Tide. Essentially, Thor’s Well is a large hole in an ancient lava flow which communicates with the Pacific Ocean, approximately 20 feet below. During high tide or storm surges, Ocean swells drive waves into the ocean-level opening of Thor’s Well and thrust the water upward, creating a dramatic salt water geyser which quickly recedes to form an elegant, circular,salty waterfall. The effect is both dramatic and enchanting. The sensation that the viewer could be suddenly swept out to sea through a tortuous, punishing lava tube is very real!
History of Cape Perpetua
Cape Perpetua has been inhabited by Native Americans for more than 6,000 years. They frequented this rugged area of the Pacific Coast to harvest crabs, clams, mussels, and sea urchins. Native Americans enjoyed the Pacific’s bounty at the same locations, returning seasonally for thousands of years. The refuse from their harvests was left behind to form “Middens”, giant piles of seafood debris, which can be spotted at many locations along Cape Perpetua. In 1778, Captain James Cook named Cape Perpetua because he spotted it on St. Perpetua Day. In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corp(CCC), which utilized Cape Perpetua as a training facility. The CCC built the Cape Perpetua Campground, a guard station and the West Shelter, located 800 feet above the Pacific Ocean and offers stunning views of the Oregon Coast. The CCC structures at Cape Perpetua were added to the National Register of Historic places in 1989.
Capturing the Thor’s Well Photograph…
Cape Perpetua is located about 3.5 hours away from my home in Bend. This distance required considerable planning and good fortune. For weeks, I tracked tide charts and sunset times until they coincided. The evening I captured the image you see above, was exceptionally windy, a photographers nightmare. I arrived well before sunset to find Thor’s Well already erupting and waterfalling back into the Pacific. The rocks surrounding the well are extremely rugged, irregular and dangerous. Rogue waves can be catastrophic on Cape Perpetua. Any unsuspecting viewer who gets swept into Thor’s Well would face certain death. It’s scary as large surges can create dangerous whirlpool sucking everything back into the ocean. On this fateful evening, I positioned myself near a couple of other photographer. The fierce wind lashed salt water against my face, camera and lenses. I had to wipe down my lens before every exposure. Multiple times during the shoot, I caught my camera moments before it was dashed against sea-soaked lava rocks, narrowly avoiding a $10,000 disaster. Another photographer was less luck than me, losing an expensive digital camera to the Pacific. I patiently waited until after sunset when all the other photographers had packed up. I was rewarded with a colorful sunset and slightly less windy conditions. As I was shooting with my 4×5 film camera, I knew I would have to anxiously wait over 10 days to see the results of my salty suffering. The wait was interminable! When I finally spread my transparencies out over my light box, I was thrilled! The result you see is the Thor’s Well photograph you see here!