Devil's Punchbowl Is Beautiful, but Dangerous

This spectacular geological formation is one of the gems of the Oregon coast. Just don't get caught inside at high tide.

Devil's Punchbowl is located in Otter Rock, Oregon. (Photo: Michael Schober/Shutterstock)

The Oregon coast is famous for its dramatic seaside cliffs and headlands. One of the must-see spots along this photogenic shoreline is the Devil’s Punchbowl. Found in one of Oregon State Park's Natural Areas, the park is a haven for whale watchers. Meanwhile, the punchbowl lures hikers into a beautiful open-sky cavern during low tide — but beware, the site fills with roiling seawater once the tide comes in.

What Is the Devil's Punchbowl?

Located in Otter Rock, near the small seaside town of Depoe Bay, the Devil’s Punchbowl is a quick jaunt off U.S. 101. The short drive and short hike (the hike is around .8 miles round trip) are well worth the visual reward.

Walking inside the cavern is possible only at low tide. (Photo: Bob Pool/Shutterstock)

The structure got its name from the swirling churn of the sea as waves fill the rocky bowl like a witch’s brew. The bowl becomes a deadly trap for anyone caught inside when the tide comes up, but when the tide is out, visitors have a chance to walk inside and revel at the geological history still written upon the sandstone walls. Anyone interested in geology, photography, or just a unique experience should check the tide charts and venture inside!

An aerial view of the cliff shows the rock feature. (Photo: Russ Heinl/Shutterstock)

How Was It Created?

The Devil’s Punchbowl was created when two sea caves eroded into one large cave and eventually the ceiling collapsed. The rock that forms the cave is sandstone and siltstone, which erodes relatively easily. As constantly crashing waves ate away at the sandstone, the cave grew bigger until the top fell in.

Visitors must leave the cavern as the tide comes in or risk death. (Photo: Dylan Freedom/Shutterstock)

According to BeachConnection, "At some point over the millennia this sandstone existed, rock-boring clams made their homes in these channels going into the Punchbowl. Such holes are still visible today during extreme low tide events. Also, wood fossils have been found in the structure of the Punchbowl as well.”

Devil's Punchbowl is a beautiful must-see stop along the coastal drive in Oregon. (Photo: Panpilas L/Shutterstock)

No matter the tide level, visitors can see the bowl from above, walking to the vista at the park on the headland. From this safe vantage point, you can watch the beauty and power of the ocean as winter swells slam huge waves into the cliff and water violently swishes and foams inside the bowl’s walls.

Whatever you do, if you decide to explore this "Satan's cauldron" from within, be sure to be very familiar with the tide chart for the day!