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Outstanding Yaquina Head
Published: 06/20/2009
Scenic Yaquina Head is home of Oregon
Scenic Yaquina Head is home of Oregon's tallest lighthouse and offers stunning views, wildlife watching and access to tidepools.
Photo by Gary Hayes

Coastal flora and fauna are abundant in the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area that plays host to an interpretive center, hiking trails, an historic lighthouse and some of the best views on the Oregon coast.

The Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, located three miles north of Newport, is a rocky, mile-long promontory jutting out into the surging Pacific Ocean. Home to the 136-year-old Yaquina Head Lighthouse, this 100-acre site offers visitors unprecedented panoramic views, secure hiking trails, an interpretive center and marine wildlife, marine wildlife and more marine wildlife. All making Yaquina Head a must stop for anyone traveling Oregon's coastal Highway 101.

Perched on the tip of the volcanic basalt headland and visible for miles up and down Highway 101, Yaquina Head Lighthouse is Oregon's tallest lighthouse and has been in active service since 1873. Tours of the still functioning lighthouse are offered by park rangers, sharing stories of lighthouse keeping from the 1800s, while dressed in period attire. Beginning in July, the popular Twilight Tours will once again be offered on Saturday evenings.

Five well-maintained hiking trails fan out from the two parking lots, providing opportunities to explore this rugged headland and observe the extensive coastal flora and fauna. From tidal pools to Gray Whales, nesting birds to Harbor Seals, you never know what's around the next bend while hiking Yaquina Head.

Birdwatchers will delight in the myriad species visibly nesting on the craggy islets just off shore. Pelagic and Brandt's Cormorants, Black Oystercatchers, Western and Glaucous-winged Gulls are year-round residents. According to Chief Park Ranger, Jay Moeller, "From May through August, Yaquina Head is home to over 65,000 Common Murres - the largest murre population on the entire West coast." Other summer visitors include Bald Eagles, Brown Pelicans, Surf Scoters, Rhinoceros Auklets and Pigeon Guillemots.

And don't miss the Yaquina Head Interpretive Center, where you can study the prismatic intricacies of a life-sized replica of the lighthouse's lantern, or step into the Wheelhouse Theater and experience what a lighthouse keeper's life was like during the late 1800s. Amid the numerous displays and exhibits, volunteers and rangers are available to answer questions regarding Yaquina Head.

Park hours are from dawn to dusk, daily. A $7 per vehicle day use pass, good for up to three days, is required. Other passes are available. For more information, call the Bureau of Land Management, Newport office, (541) 574-3100. - By Jack Davis

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