Devils Punchbowl is a collapsed sea cave or littoral sinkhole located on a headland in Devils Punchbowl State Natural Area at the community of Otter Rock, about 8 miles (13 km) north of Newport and 5 miles (8 km) south of Depoe Bay, Oregon. Devils Punchbowl is connected to the ocean by two tunnel-like openings and during high tide, it becomes a maelstrom of currents. It was originally called Satan’s Cauldron but the name was changed when Devils Punchbowl State Park was established starting in 1929 with a land donation by Frederick W. Leadbetter and his wife Caroline Pittock. The community of Otter Rock is on U.S. Route 101 and takes its name from a sea stack located about 0.5 miles (0.8 km) offshore that was historically inhabited by sea otters. The rocks exposed along the coastal strip and on the headland result from a history of uplift and erosion, fluctuating shorelines, the eruption of lava from several volcanoes, and the dislocation of rock units by faults. In the Middle Miocene, about 20 to 18 million years ago, a period of coastal uplift and erosion occurred that was followed by an invasion of the sea and the deposition of sediments in the Astoria Formation. The Astoria Formation consists of beds of yellowish-gray sandstone and dark-gray siltstone. Thick beds of volcanic ash were also deposited in the shallow sea and can be seen in the sea cliffs at Devils Punchbowl. This ash was probably derived from volcanic eruptions in an ancestral Cascade Range. Deposition of Astoria Formation marine sediments stopped when the shallow sea was uplifted. Sand and pebble sediments were also deposited near sea level during the Pleistocene and now occur on an ascending flight of uplifted marine terraces ranging in elevation from 40 to 500 feet (12-150 m). These terraces indicate that several periods of uplift and erosion of the Coast Range occurred during the past 2 million years. The Astoria Formation sandstone exposed along the sides of the sea cave and tunnels also has numerous holes about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter bored by piddock clams. Volcanic breccia cuts the Astoria sandstone on the floor of the Punchbowl. This breccia formed when hot lava was explosively injected into wet sediments. This explosive action probably shattered the overlying rocks and produced an easily eroded circular area.
The Yaquina people were a tribe of Native Americans that spoke one of the Yakonan languages and lived in several villages along the coast from present-day Depoe Bay to the Yaquina River and around Yaquina Bay. Native peoples of the Oregon coastal regions traditionally controlled access to natural resources on their lands through property rights and access rules. Specific families often owned assets such as fishing sites or managed gathering places, while hunting grounds might be shared with the broader community. Such rules contributed to their effectiveness as prolific traders. Anyone guilty of trespass or theft from a neighbor might face fatal retribution. Settlers who began to arrive in the late 1830s and into the decades that followed routinely ignored tribal laws and policies. During the fur trade era, the Oregon Country was primarily under the influence of the British Hudson’s Bay Company. The company’s large trapping parties effectively bypassed engaging with their Native hosts and harvested furs and game without permission or apology. In 1832, Alsea hunters killed two Hudson’s Bay Company trappers who were trapping for furs without consent. The Chief Factor for Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Vancouver was John McLoughlin, who instructed Michel Laframboise to lead a retaliatory expedition. The retaliatory party attacked an innocent Yaquina village and according to a narrative by Coquelle Thompson, they shot every man, woman, and child in the village which effectively ended the Yaquina people as a nation. Over time, fur traders, settlers, miners, entrepreneurs, and military agents repeatedly engaged in violent confrontations with Native people that eventually resulted in the expropriation of their lands and placement on reservations.
In 2008, the state of Oregon began a process to designate and implement a limited system of marine reserve sites within state waters. Marine reserves are a type of marine protected area with full protection and provide a spatial approach to conservation and management aimed at protecting and ultimately restoring overutilized marine ecosystems. Many studies from around the world show that marine reserves can provide long-term conservation benefits to marine organisms, populations, and biodiversity. Since 2009, five marine reserves have been established in Oregon and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is the lead agency responsible for the management and monitoring of the reserves. The reserves are still very new, so it is unknown if the predicted benefits of the reserves are being realized. Researchers are collecting data at the reserve sites with the hope that they will be able to detect measurable impacts from the reserves over time. Otter Rock Marine Reserve is currently the smallest marine reserve along the Oregon coast with approximately 717 acres (311 ha) providing habitat for a variety of seaweeds, fishes, and invertebrates. This is one of only two marine reserve sites in Oregon that has canopy-forming kelp beds. Emergent rocks and islands are another prominent ecological feature. The reserve includes a long stretch of rocky intertidal habitat that is biologically diverse. Local marine reserve community groups have formed organically over time in their respective communities in association with each of the marine reserve sites. These groups promote stewardship and serve as liaisons between their community and the management agency. They have been instrumental in developing and carrying out outreach, community engagement, community science, education, and economic development projects that complement and expand beyond the implementation efforts by the agency. Read more here and here. Explore more of Devils Punchbowl and Otter Rock here: