Thor’s Well: The Mysterious Hole Draining The Pacific Ocean

by | Dec 15, 2021 | Adventures, Oregon Coast, Travel

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Once considered one of Oregon’s great mysteries, Thor’s Well is a bowl-shaped hole carved into the basalt shoreline of Cape Perpetua. Also known as the Drain pipe of the Pacific, the seemingly bottomless well perpetually fills and drains throughout the day.

During high tide, water shoots out the top like a geyser, reaching heights of up to 40 feet. This stunning geological formation attracts thousands of visitors each year and is one of Oregon’s most popular attractions along the coast. Read on to learn more about Thor’s Well and how to make the most of your visit to this natural wonder.

What Is Thor’s Well?

Thor's Well at sunset near Yachats Oregon.
Thors Well. Photo by Stefan Klopp via Flickr CC2.

Once thought to be a giant sinkhole, researchers now believe that Thor’s Well in Oregon began as a large sea cave. The sea cave slowly formed over thousands of years as waves crashed into the volcanic rock that made up Cape Perpetua’s shoreline. It eventually collapsed, leaving a bowl-shaped hole just meters from shore. Although it looks like a bottomless pit, the hole is only 20 feet deep. 

Thor's Well is a 30 minute drive North of Florence. Photo by Aaron Hockley via Flickr CC2.

How Does Thor’s Well Work?

Although Thor’s Well appears to drain into some unknown underworld, its function is quite simple. The collapsed cave has openings at the bottom and top, which allow the ocean to move through it. Water steadily flows in at low tide and slowly fills the well. At high tide, the water surges through the bottom hole, causing it to shoot up like a geyser. The constant filling and draining create the mesmerizing illusion that the well is draining the Pacific.

Thor's Well
Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Is Thor’s Well Oregon Dangerous?

Thor's Well Oregon. Photo by Diana Robinson via Flickr CC2.

It can absolutely be dangerous. More than a few onlookers (such as this one, now presumed dead) have fallen in or been swept off the rocks around the well throughout the years. Visitors must also be aware of sneaker waves. These enormous waves are not visible from shore and can surge more than 150 feet past the foam line. Sneaker waves are the most significant danger on the Pacific Coast because they can sweep unsuspecting victims off to sea. These sneaker waves can easily knock down onlookers standing around Thor’s Rim.

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Please be aware of your surroundings at all times when on the coast, and do not turn your back to the ocean. Obey all warning signs and stay on the path. Adventuring, going off path, and stepping out onto the rocks are at-your-own-risk activities. It's important that you stay safe while visiting Thor's Well.

Where Does Thor’s Well Get Its Name?

Photo by Diana Robinson via Flickr CC2.

Thor’s Well is named after Thor, the Norse God of Thunder. Local legend suggests that Thor struck this spot on the Oregon coast, creating the giant hole we see today. Thor’s Well is also known as The Drainpipe of the Pacific. The bowl earned this name because it seems to drain ocean water underground endlessly.

Where Is Thor’s Well Located?

Thor’s Well is located in the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, just a few miles south of Yachats. The natural wonder can be found right off Highway 101, making it a perfect stop for those taking a road trip up the Oregon Coast. Visitors can park here at Thor’s Well trailhead. The well is visible from the parking lot, but visitors can also walk down a short path to the shore to get a closer look. Be sure to visit the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center while you're there. The Cape Perpetua Visitor Center is run by volunteers and is open seven days a week. Check out the hours of the visitor center here.

How Far Is The Hike To Thor’s Well?

The hike from the parking lot to visit Thor's Well near Cape Perpetua only takes a few minutes. Visitors looking for a longer hike can take the half-mile loop on the Captain Cook Trail. The trail includes magnificent views of Cape Perpetua and other natural wonders. Although the walk down to Thor’s Well is considered safe, visitors should still heed caution. The basalt shoreline is full of sharp and slippery volcanic rock. If possible, visitors should don shoes with grip. The shoreline is also home to tide pools and other crevices, so visitors should always know where they are stepping. 

The Best Time To Visit Thor’s Well

Thor's Well in Oregon
Photo by Darek Farmer via Flickr CC2.

Thor’s Well is fascinating at any time of day, but the best time to see it is an hour before high tide. This way, visitors can watch the well slowly fill up until high tide. Then, waves surge through the bowl at high tide and explode out the top, creating its iconic geyser-like image. You can view a tide schedule for Cape Perpetua here. The well can be accessed throughout the year, although the winter months can get very cold. Cape Perpetua’s average winter temperature is around 45°F. 

The Best Time To Photograph Thor’s Well

Thor's Well in Oregon
Photo by Aaron Hockley via Flickr CC2.

Visitors love to take photos of Thor's Well as this is one of the most photogenic spots you can stop off at at the Oregon coast. Sunset is a popular time to take photos here. You should note that it is not safe to stand on the rocks around Thor's well.  You should stay on the path and view this dangerous wonder from a distance. It's better to view from a distance and remain safe than to get swept off the rocks and into the ocean and die.

Thor’s Well is a rare geological formation near the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, making it a bucket list destination for many photographers. The Pacific Ocean and the breathtaking views of the rocky Oregon Coast serve as the perfect backdrop for the well. Not surprisingly, sunset and sunrise provide fantastic lighting. However, those looking to take photos of explosive waves shooting out of Thor’s Well should aim to visit at high tide.

What Else Is There To Do Near Thor’s Well?

Thor’s Well is centrally located in Cook’s Chasm, near Cape Perpetua, and is only a few miles south of the city of Yachats. The surrounding area is full of natural and human-made wonders to explore that visitors can spend days discovering. The following are the best activities near Thor’s Well.

Tour the many tide pools around Thor’s Well

The tide pools surrounding Thor’s Well are teeming with sea creatures, including starfish, acorn barnacles (or talking barnacles), and anemones. The perfect time to explore the tide pools around Thor’s Well is low tide.

A photo of a tide pool located near Thor's Well
Photo by Selena Morar on Unsplash

Check Out Spouting Horn And Devil’s Churn

Cook’s Chasm is an inlet on Cape Perpetua. It offers trails with spectacular views and is home to both Thor’s Well and Spouting Horn. The Spouting Horn is an ocean geyser on the Captain Cook Trail. At high tide, Spouting Horn spews out a spectacular jet of water. Because Cook's Chasm is right next to Thor's Well, be sure to get a good look while visiting.

Devil’s Churn is located in the Siuslaw National Forest, just one mile north of Thor’s Well. The narrow inlet traps water, creating violent, churning water and crashing waves. During high tide, water can spray several hundred feet into the air. It’s definitely worth the extra stop for those already in the area. Devil’s Churn can be accessed using the Restless Waters Trail.

Because Devil's Churn is so close to Thor's Well, it's a great spot to stop off when in the area.

Take in breathtaking views at Cape Perpetua Overlook

Cape Perpetua Overlook is the highest point accessible by car in Oregon. At 800 meters above sea level, it provides a spectacular view of the headlands below. Because it’s only a 6-minute drive from Thor’s Well Trailhead, it’s a must-see extra stop for those visiting Thor’s Well.

A photo taken from Cape Perpetua Overlook
Photo by Eric Muhr on Unsplash

Explore Yachats And Everything It Has To Offer

Yachats is a quaint town along the Oregon coast steeped in Native American history. It’s located just a few miles north of Thor’s Well and is a must-see destination on the Oregon Coast. Pronounced "YAH-hots," Yachats is known as the 'gem of the Oregon coast' and is located about six minutes North of Thor's Well. It's a perfect spot to stop in for a bite to eat, or to stay at a hotel or a charming AirBNB.

READ MORE: Yachats, Oregon – “The Gem of the Oregon Coast” Travel Guide

Yachats Oregon
Image via /

Visit Heceta Head Lighthouse

A photo of Heceta Head Lighthouse
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Heceta Head Lighthouse is about 14 minutes south of Thor's Well Oregon on the way to the charming little town of Florence which sits on the Pacific Ocean. The lighthouse can be found at the state scenic viewpoint here. It's open for day use year round, and there's a parking permit required. If you reserve ahead of time, you can even stay the night in the old Heceta Head Lighthouse lightkeeper's cottage. This little bed and breakfast boasts stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, and has charm to spare.

Heceta Head Lighthouse
Heceta Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast / Facebook

Heceta Head is a gorgeous place to visit, and a must if you're visiting Thor's Well. There are so many great spots along this section of coastline to visit. You can spend a relaxing weekend taking in the sights, or stretch it out and spend a full week exploring all there is to offer.

READ MORE: Coastal Charms: Oregon’s 11 Most Majestic Lighthouses

Heceta Head Lighthouse at sunset.
Heceta Lighthouse at sunset. Photo by John Fowler via Flickr CC2.

Have you ever gone to visit the drainpipe of the Pacific? Share your photos with us in a comment, and tag the friends and family you want to go on an Oregon coast adventure with!

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Written By Christine Childress

Christine is a freelance writer and world traveler. As an Oregon resident, she enjoys discovering the best hiking, dining, and drinking spots across the state.

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