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Geology and Earth Resources Division Bulletin No. 72

Washington Coastal Geology between the Hoh and Quillayute Rivers



The descent from the top of Taylor Point northward to Third Beach crosses the northern fault that separates the Taylor Point rock sequence from another area of melange rocks (fig. 25). Although the actual trace of this fault is not visible, the sudden change from cliffs of conglomerate to slumped deposits of melange debris generally locates the fault contact. Beach travel southeastward from the base of the Taylor Point trail is blocked in a short distance by sheer cliffs of sandstone and conglomerate. However, in that area, an interesting accumulation of large blocks of conglomerate rests at the base of the cliff (fig. 55). The conglomerate of these blocks is similar to the conglomerate of the Goodman Creek area (fig. 44). Well-rounded pebbles and cobbles of sedimentary rocks, such as sandstone and siltstone, are common. Lesser amounts of gray chert, white limestone nodules, granitelike diorite, and dense volcanics, together with various metamorphic (altered) rocks, are also present.

LARGE BLOCKS OF CONGLOMERATE from the cliffs above, rest on the south end of Third Beach (fig. 55).

At Third Beach the cliffs of Taylor Point are best viewed a short distance away. Looking back, buff-colored unconsolidated Pleistocene deposits are well displayed, capping massive sandstone and conglomerate Hoh bedrock (frontispiece). A picturesque waterfall can be seen cascading down the cliffs (fig. 56). The V-shaped valley from which it drains has been carved by this stream and abruptly ends at the cliff, thus forming a classic HANGING VALLEY. The downward cutting of this stream has not kept pace with coastal erosion and therefore the stream reaches sea level over a final, nearly vertical descent of some 100 feet.

A WATERFALL viewed from the south end of Third Beach. The abrupt "hanging valley" of the stream is the result of more rapid horizontal erosion by the sea than downward cutting by the stream (fig. 56).



One of the earliest geologically related events to take place in the Washington coastal area was the drilling of a petroleum exploration well in the vicinity of Third Beach during the turn records state that the initial investigations were made in 1898 but actual drilling operations of the century. Historical records are in conflict on the exact year of the operations. Some began in the spring of 1899 and were abandoned the same year (Lofgren, 1949). Other records (Landes, 1902; Lupton, 1914) suggest a 1902 date. It may be that the event was not officially recorded until the latter date. Regardless of the exact date, this well, according to all known records, was the first to have been drilled on the Olympic Peninsula.

The site, to this day, is quite evident near the top of the melange rock bluff, no more than an eighth of a mile inland from the north end of Third Beach. Well-rusted machinery, a steam engine (fig. 57) and boiler (fig. 59), together with an assortment of deteriorated drill pipe, lie intertwined among dense underbrush. For years visitors to Third Beach passed by this evidence of man's past mechanical endeavors, a rather startling find in what otherwise appears to be the undisturbed forest. In recent years, the trail to Third Beach has been rerouted and no longer passes the site.

Several known accounts make it clear that the operation was plagued with difficulty. All drilling tools and equipment had to be shipped from San Francisco to Seattle where, together with supplies, they were then transported to the immediate area by tug and barge. The landing of the barge on Third Beach apparently was uncontrolled, completely at the mercy of a strong sea. Reportedly, the barge was totally destroyed, but most machinery, including a donkey engine, was salvaged. The engine was dismantled and backpacked piece by piece to the drill site atop the slippery and somewhat unstable rock melange bluff. Reassembled, the donkey engine was used to drag the remaining machinery and equipment to the site.

Drilling operations were also said to have been wrought with difficulties as the result of a combination of an overbearing operator, uncooperative workers, poor drilling equipment, and unusually difficult drilling conditions in a combination of sandstone conglomerate and incompetent melange rocks. Reports on the total drilling depth are conflicting but state and federal documents suggest a depth of 650 feet may have been reached before "side pressures" became so great that the operation was abandoned. These records also indicate that definite petroleum shows were encountered in the form of strong petroleum odor and rainbow colors on the mud pit (Landes, 1902; Reagan, 1909; Lupton, 1914).

The remains of this ill-fated operation among a maze of underbrush and second-growth timber and a few "high cut stumps" serve as a monument to man's early attempts to recover the resources of this wilderness area.



Generally, Third Beach can be traversed at almost any tide with only a few places more difficult during extreme high tides. Sheer cliffs of massive sandstone at Teahwhit Head, northwest of Third Beach, make that area completely impassable. Therefore, a formal trail has been provided by the National Park Service from Third Beach to the trail head on the La Push road, a distance of about 1-1/4 miles. The trail begins in the central part of Third Beach, immediately to the north of a major drainage. This trail is the only formal access to 15 miles of coastal area north of the Hoh River.

Although the bluffs of Third Beach are largely vegetated, melange rocks are exposed in places along the base of the bluffs and along the beach. Therefore, the entire area between Taylor Point and Teahwhit Head to the northwest is probably underlain by Hoh melange rocks (fig. 46). This zone of tectonic rock melange extends northwestward behind Teahwhit Head and reappears again along Second Beach (fig. 25). Most of the rock debris of these melange deposits are broken sedimentary rocks. However, in the central part of Third Beach, several volcanic blocks are exposed in the bluff and on the nearby beach (fig. 58). Reddish-colored sedimentary CHERTS and limey ARGILLITES are intermixed with these volcanic rocks. The original source of these volcanic and associated rocks is unknown, but they are similar to volcanic formations in other parts of the Olympic Peninsula. Because no nearby source is known for these volcanic rocks, their presence indicates substantial transport by tectonic action that could occur along a major zone of thrust faulting.

REMAINS OF MACHINERY used during the turn of the century to drill the first exploratory oil well on the Olympic Peninsula lie a short distance inland from the north end of Third Beach (fig. 57).

VOLCANIC BLOCK on Third Beach, an erosional remnant from the Hoh melange. Because this rock type is foreign to the bedrock of the area, its presence suggests transport by major crustal movement (fig. 58).

THIS STEAM BOILER is among the remains of equipment used to drill an exploratory oil well during the turn of the century near Third Beach (fig. 59).

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Last Updated: 28-Mar-2006