Sea Lion Caves on the central coast of Oregon is one of the largest sea grottoes in the world. It’s about an hour and a half drive from us here in Eugene, and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been out there now. Probably a dozen - it’s one of those places that you find yourself taking out-of-state guests to every so often.
After a 200’ elevator ride down, when the doors open you’re hit with the noise and stench of the many sea lions who take shelter in the main part of the cave, along with the sea air. It’s a very developed and commercial cave - a narrow section with stairs leads to a northern entrance in the cliff about fifty feet above the beach. From there, there’s a great view of a lighthouse a few miles up the coast. To the southwest, there’s an opening which has been partially sealed off with concrete and a steel fence which allows you to safely see into much of the main cave.
It’s a dramatic sight - large waves come crashing through the large western entrance, washing over a rock outcropping before breaking further inside the cave. Depending on the time of year, there can be ten to a maybe a hundred or so sea lions there, all growling furiously and squabbling over territory. Beyond the main chamber is a tunnel which leads south another thousand feet or so to another entrance from the sea.
One gets a very primeval feeling from the spectacle while smelling the odors and listening to the sounds of the sea lions amplified and echoing off of the cavern walls, all while the tide repeatedly rushes in and out. It always makes me want to write up a seaside dungeon of some sort. The entire location can be experienced with ease and in a very short time. It’s definitely an out of the way place, not being on the way to anywhere else exactly, but if you’re taking a leisurely trip up the coast on Highway 1 from California to Washington, it’s a must see.
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