Geology and Geocaching at Shark Fin Cove

Shark Fin Cove

Photo Credit: Steve Dunleavy

A massive rock stands guard over a small cove full of geologic wonders just up the coast from Santa Cruz, only 0.7 miles south of the town of Davenport.

The main geologic feature, visible from Highway 1, has inspired two interchangeable names: Shark Fin Cove and Shark Tooth Beach. This beach is most certainly a cove, however, and it’s fun to imagine the size of shark lurking beneath a fin of that size, so we’re using the former here.

Please note, that although some folks refer to this beach as Davenport Cove, this is not the same spot as Davenport Beach or Davenport Landing Beach.

 

Geologic Wonder No. 1: Shark Fin Rock

Now that we have the name settled, how does a rock end up looking like the appendage of a cartilaginous fish? If only there was an ancient myth handed down from generation to generation that told the story of a prehistoric megalodon who hunted the waters just off the cove’s shores to explain the origin of this rock. Alas, there’s not, so we’ll let science give us the more down-to-earth version.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years ago the shark fin was an extension of the mudstone cliff that encloses this beach. Over the years, the force of the crashing waves and whistling winds steadily eroded away the rock in a process called coastal geomorphology.

The rock now stands as we see it today: A small island that catches the light at sunset so compellingly that photographers travel from all over the country to capture its timeless beauty.

Really, this is geology at its finest.

 

Geologic Wonder No. 2: Sea Cave

Shark Fin Cove Cave Photo Credit: Matt Granz

Shark fin rock is enough geologic wonder for one beach, especially viewed from above while strolling along the edge of agricultural fields, but then there’s the sea cave.

When the ocean has dumped tons of sand onto the beach, a small cave forms on the southeast side of the beach. If you’re lucky, the lapping water will have excavated the cave for you, revealing a hole in the cliff, large enough to walk through. Photographers love to visit the beach during this time because the hole perfectly frames the waves crashing into shark fin rock and the other sea stacks that stand like sentries over the cove.

This cave was also formed as the hydraulic action of the waves slowly eroded away the rock. Hundreds of years from now the cave may open up and form an arch which will eventually collapse and leave yet another free standing island of rock. Perhaps this sea stack will look like the shark’s snout.

Capture as many photos of this geologic wonder as you like, but do yourself a huge favor and keep a close eye on the tides if you’re on the ocean-side of the sea cave. The sea stacks create dangerous currents as the waves crash around them, so unless you’re a hard-core, adrenaline-seeking ocean swimmer, don’t get yourself stuck.

 

Adventure Into the Mines of Moria

 

On your way back to the trailhead, check out the long, dark tunnel oozing a steady trickle of  water. It may look like your ordinary drainage pipe to some, but if you’re a Geocacher, this is one of the entrances to the mines of Moria. Before you get too excited, the tunnel does not end in chambers filled with gold and other dwarf treasure. Bummer, I know. Something else may lie deep within the “mine”, however. Explore at your own risk, with galoshes and a flashlight, of course.

 

Shark Fin Cove
Shark Fin Cove

Shark Fin Cove

Photo: Darvin Atkeson

Selfie at Shark Fin Cove
Selfie at Shark Fin Cove

Selfie at Shark Fin Cove

Photo: Michael McMurdie

Journey to the Center of the Earth
Journey to the Center of the Earth

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Photo: Matthew Crowley

Shark Fin Cove
Shark Fin Cove

Shark Fin Cove

Photo: © 2014 Mike Oria Photography

Shark Fin Cove
Shark Fin Cove

Shark Fin Cove

Photo: Mike Mezeul II

Shark Fin Cove
Shark Fin Cove

Shark Fin Cove

Photo: Steve Dunleavy

Shark Fin Cove
Shark Fin Cove

Shark Fin Cove

Photo: Matt Granz Photography

Shark Fin Cove
Shark Fin Cove

Shark Fin Cove

Photo: Shane Venem

Cave to Moria
Cave to Moria

Cave to Moria

Photo: Molly Lautamo

Shark Fin Cove
Shark Fin Cove

Shark Fin Cove

Photo: Anne Canright

Tunnel Vision at Shark Fin Cove
Tunnel Vision at Shark Fin Cove

Tunnel Vision at Shark Fin Cove

Photo: Steve Peters

 

Leave Only Footprints

This beach, like so many others along this stretch of Highway 1, has no trash cans, so please be respectful and pack your trash. If you want some good karma, pack other’s trash too and leave this quiet cove cleaner than you found it. There’s a magic feeling to this place and it’s our duty to maintain it. The more trash we leave behind, the weaker the magic becomes, and the dark tunnel becomes less like the mines to Moria and more like a conduit for plastic bottles and candy wrappers. Where’s the fun in that?

 

How to Get There

From Santa Cruz, take Highway 1 north approximately 10 miles. Parking is 0.7 miles from Davenport, just north of the Bonny Doon Beach lot. The lot is a dirt pullout and you should be able to see Shark Fin Cove from the road (the rock is a dead giveaway.) Head down over the railroad tracks and the trailhead is just ahead past the sign that tells you everything that’s not allowed at the beach. (No vehicles, apparently, although how anyone would get their car down to this beach is a mystery to me.) The walk down is narrow and steep but manageable. Look out for poison oak which actually forms a tunnel of foliage at one point on the trail. Tecnu, anyone?

Aerial Video by MultiRotorCam

Shark Fin Cove Information

HoursSunrise to Sunset
ParkingLimited, free parking
RestroomsNo
DogsNo
CampfiresNo
CampingNo
Tide PoolsYes
Surf SpotNo
Photo OpsYes
Cool Geologic FormationsYes

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About Molly Lautamo

Molly Lautamo is a freelance writer and content strategist. She came to Santa Cruz almost ten years ago to attend UCSC and never left. To check out more of Molly's writing, visit mollylautamo.com

Comments

  1. OMG thank you so much for your article! I am writing a blog post about shark fin cove myself and stumbled upon yours; and have been there a couple of weeks ago; 2 or 3 days later I had something like an insect bite on my ankle (I thought) and it just wouldn’t go away but forms a mark just where my sock ended… its Poison Oak! Coming from Europe I am not that familiar with that plant but my foot must have touched it when getting down to the beach; I got already seriously worried ^^ However, besides this information; I really like your article!

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