Beautiful Oregon makes a wonderful place to live. It also makes a wonderful place for a short day trip or a longer vacation. If you are thinking about places to visit in Oregon, the Oregon coast has much to offer. One of the most recognizable places along the Oregon coastline is Haystack Rock. This immense rock is a landmark that’s visible for miles. Rising over two hundred feet from the shoreline, it’s a fascinating place that makes the ideal area for bird watching and exploring tidal pools. If you love sea life, this is the place to be any day of the year.
Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge
Haystack Rock is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. As such, it is a state protected area. This makes it easy to explore this pristine marine environment in person. Come here at low tide. You’ll see a teeming group of tidal pools filled with star fish and other amazing creatures. If you love birds, come here from early spring to mid-summer for a firsthand look at Tufted Puffins. They are but one of many magnificent birth species that spend part of their time in this area formed by lava flows millions of years ago.
Located in Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock is one of the state’s seven Marine Gardens. These gardens are all about encouraging residents and visitors alike to enjoy this lovely region. Visitors arriving at low tide can see pools containing many intertidal animals. Animals full of color such as live crabs, limpets, chitons, nudibranches and vivid green anemones are easy to spot in the clear waters as the tide recedes. Sit back and watch as bird species soar overhead and delight visitors with their antics.
This is a protected area. As such, people are allowed here only in certain areas. Visitors are prohibited from climbing above the rock’s barnacle line. The goal is make sure no one disturb’s the region’s delicate balance of wildlife. People are encouraged to see it from the sand and the bare rocks. Conservationists want to make sure the area’s ancient marine ecosystem remains in good shape while still allowing viewers to get up close and personal with the natural world. Anyone who is planning a visit to the region should be aware of the periods of low tide. It’s best to arrive roughly an hour before low tides. This will let the traveler have full access to the region’s marine life and make sure it’s maintained for future generations. Keep in mind the high tides in order to practice water safety and avoid getting hurt.
Beginning about thirty years ago, efforts were made to make sure visitors understood the region’s beauty and were prepared to make sure they were keeping all areas well preserved when visiting Haystack Rock. The Haystack Rock Awareness Program or HRAP, aims to fully preserve this fragile system and present programs that help people understand what is in front of them. Staffers guide the visitor through the region’s long geological history and contemporary workings. Visitors arriving at Haystack Rock from the middle of February to the end of October can take advantage of these programs and satisfy their curiosity about local marine and land life. Microscopes are available to help them see the life that lies in each drop of coastal water. Special equipment lets people see bird nests. People interested in such programs can find copies of events in many places. Tide charts and information about programs can be found at City Hall as well as the area’s Chamber of Commerce Information Center. This makes it easier than ever to explore programs that give people the background they might want to appreciate the wildlife right in front of them.
Bird lovers come to Haystack Rock from all over the world. Tufted Puffins are particularly popular and nest here from April to July. These squat little birds are quite colorful. They have immense orange bills, bright yellow tufted feathers above their eyes and white faces. They build their nests on the north slope of the rock to protect the eggs from predators.
Another much loved bird that can be seen from Haystack Rock is the Pelagic Cormorant. These thin, tall birds can be seen nesting on the south side of the rock. Watch them spread their wings and quickly dive for fish in the waters to feed their chicks. Perhaps the single most common bird you’ll see along the coast is the Western Gull. Th mature birds are distinguished by their grey feathers and pale pink legs. People will often spot the Pigeon Guillemot. With their orangy red legs and black wings, they make a colorful site against the brown rocks. Look for them in crevices that are lower to the waters where they like to nest. This bird is particularly shy so it’s best to keep a respectful distance and watch as the bird swoops in and out.
People in search of additional birds of note should pay close attention to the many other bird species that make this area their home. A good book with a list of descriptions and pictures can help people spot the birds they want to see. There’s Harlequin ducks gently paddling along the waters of the coast. You’ll also spot Black Oystercatchers that can seen at a distance. Predator birds also choose this area to make their home in order to find prey. Bald Eagles are a common sight along the shore as well as magnificent Peregrine Falcons that can swoop from enormous heights and amaze people with sudden movements.
This area was formed roughly seventeen million years ago. Lava flowed into the ocean along the Columbia River. Many years later, such flows cooled into the rocks seen today. Over time, changes in sea levels have influenced the vista present today. Erosion removed sediment and carved out varied parts of the shore and rock formations like Haystack Rock.