The massive hole in the Pacific Ocean known as Thor’s Well looks nothing short of terrifying. Thor’s Well, sometimes called the Gate to Hell, appears to be swallowing the Pacific Ocean gulp by gulp. In actuality, this natural wonder in Oregon is completely benign.
Read on to discover exactly what’s going on beneath the surface — and learn how you can safely experience this incredible water phenomenon for yourself.
The Science Behind Thor’s Well
Thor’s Well is located in the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area right off of the Oregon Coast Highway. It’s about 4 miles south of Yachats, Oregon.
Scientists theorize that the feature started out as a sea cave dug out by the waves. The roof of the cave later collapsed, leaving openings at the top and bottom through which the ocean now surges and sprays.
Instead of a sinkhole, Thor’s Well is actually just a bowl-shaped hole. During high tide, waves fill the collapsed sea cave until the water overflows and bursts from the rocky surface. When the tide recedes, the bowl empties once more, creating a cycle of the hole churning with water and then becoming a shallow pool.
The 10-foot-wide pit looks bottomless, but don’t let the pictures deceive you — it’s actually only 20 feet deep!
How To Visit
To spot Thor’s Well in action, you’ll want to park just south of the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center at the Cook’s Chasm pull-out. From there, you can walk directly down to the hole, or you can keep a safe distance if you’d prefer to admire its beauty from afar.
To witness the metamorphosis of Thor’s Well, we suggest visiting an hour before high tide, when the cave is almost empty. If you have the time, stay until high tide fills the cave to the brim, creating bubbles and layers of sea foam.
Even at high tide, Thor’s Well isn’t necessarily dangerous — but the Pacific Ocean is, with its volatile waves, undercurrents, and blustery winds. Visiting during the winter is more dangerous than visiting at any other time of year, since the Pacific is more violent during the colder months. If you go during the winter, make sure to pay attention to the weather and keep a safe distance from Thor’s Well.
You’ll find clusters of spectators at the supposed sinkhole on warm summer afternoons. If you don’t mind some friendly company, try to visit then!
Since the tides fluctuate throughout the year, this tide tracker will help you choose the right time to visit.
Natural Marvels Like It
If you’re all about the thrill of seeing an ocean cave up close, you’ll have to check out the two similar wonders next door! Devil’s Churn and Sprouting Horn — both within a mile of Thor’s Well — are other water wonders to visit while you’re on the coast.
Astoria, Oregon, also showcases the rugged beauty of the Pacific Northwest — and it’s just a 4-hour drive up the Oregon coast! Here’s why you should make time for Astoria.