Oregon has been a beautiful state to explore. We’ve loved calling it home this past year. One of the Seven Wonders in Oregon is the Oregon Coast and it’s easy to see why. During our road trip down the coast, we were most excited to finally photograph Thor’s Well.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THOR’S WELL CAPE PERPETUA SCENIC AREA
WHAT IS THOR’S WELL
Thor’s Well is a hole carved out of the basalt shoreline in the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. One theory is that it was initially a sea cave until the roof collapsed, leaving a hole on the surface level. Because of it’s location right against the Pacific Ocean, you get a constant flow of waves rolling in from underneath and filling the bowl from the bottom. Depending on the tide level, sometimes it just bubbles to the top, while other times, it’s bursting out in a violent spray.
HOW DO YOU GET THERE
Thor’s Well is a bit tricky to find because there are no markings for it from the road. The easiest way to find it is to first look for Spouting Horn.
If you’re driving south on 101, park at the Cape Cove Trailhead pull-out 0.3 miles south of the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center. You’ll see signs at the trail for Spouting Horn. If you look out towards the ocean as you descend, you’ll see Thor’s Well near the edge. After you walk down the stairs, you can walk out onto the rocky coast to get a closer look.
If you can’t seem to see it from the trail, ask the people around you. It’s also marked on Google Maps so that can help orient you.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Low tide is the safest time to go to get up close to it and see how it works. The water won’t fill over the top as often during this time.
If you’re a photographer, you most likely want to get the dramatic look of the water coming in and out so you will want to visit during high tide. During our visit, we arrived an hour before high tide and the water would burst out sporadically. Jacob stood near the edge of the well to shoot and the water would come to his calfs before draining back into the well.
The shots that we wanted actually happened at high tide when the water was consistently overflowing. We didn’t dare get close to the well at this point and stayed nearby on a high ridge. Even then, water was coming up to our feet from time to time.
If you want to shoot, I suggest arriving an hour to and hour and half before high tide. This will give you time to orient yourself and find the best place to be. Each day the tide level will be slightly different as well so you can judge when the best time to shoot will be.
For those of you who want to just watch the drama, come close to high tide and you can see it from the viewpoints!
Check tide levels here.
HOW TO TAKE PHOTOS OF THOR’S WELL
What To Bring:
- Camera with a wide lens
- ND (Neutral Density) filter – They’re kind of like shades that block out part of the light
- Shutter Release or just use the 2 sec timer.
If you forget an ND filter like I did, you might be able to pull it off with some cloud cover if you’re lucky. Once the clouds rolled in, I brought my ISO as low as possible and aperture as high as possible (meaning the opening is as narrow as possible).
Your settings will vary depending on the circumstances, but to give you a good starting point my settings for the below photo: – 2.5 sec, f/22, ISO 50
IS IT DANGEROUS?
Thor’s Well has a reputation for being extremely dangerous, but it’s not any more dangerous than the surrounding jagged coast. The Pacific Ocean is fierce and unforgiving here.
Most incidents in the area happen by sneaker waves surprising visitors who are busy looking at the well. It is very close to the edge and waves come crashing over to coastline too. Just be sure you are aware of your surroundings the entire time you are there. Jacob was really close to the well and never felt like he was in danger of being sucked in, but if you’re clumsy and prone to tripping like me, I would steer clear.
PRO TIPS FOR YOUR VISIT
- Plan your trip around the tides for the day! Check tide levels here. During our high tide, the water was already swelling around our feet. Careful to check if it’s a King Tide (extra high) so you can adjust accordingly.
- Wear waterproof shoes if you plan on just walking around but not getting too close to Thor’s Well. Water shoes are even better better since you’ll most likely get wet up close.
- It always helps to have waterproof clothes on as well. We weren’t sure what to expect, so our shoes, socks, and pants got completely soaked since we wanted those photos.
- Heceta Head Lighthouse (11 mi / 15 min away)
- Sea Lion Caves (12 mi / 15 min away)
- Florence Oregon (22 mi / 29 min away)
- Oregon Coast Aquarium, Newport (26 mi / 35 min away)
- Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site (27 mi / 37 min away)
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“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust