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Gardens of Intertidal Wonder
Published: 06/14/2010
Colorful tidepool creatures like anemones, sea stars and urchins can be observed during low tides at many Oregon Coast locations.
Colorful tidepool creatures like anemones, sea stars and urchins can be observed during low tides at many Oregon Coast locations.
photo by Gary Hayes

The seven Marine Gardens along the Oregon Coast offer extraordinary opportunities for learning about intertidal zones and the flora and fauna they support.

In 1990, the Oregon Ocean ­Resources Management Plan was submitted to the ­Oregon ­legislature. The ­document ­recommended ­numerous ­programs to protect and benefit ­Oregon's coastal ­environments, ­including the ­designation of Marine Gardens. ­Managed by the ­Department of Fish and Wildlife for the ­purposes of ­educational and ­recreational ­experiences, Marine Gardens on the Oregon Coast are open to the general public and provide a ­variety of on-site ­interpretive ­information. Seven distinctive areas have been chosen to exemplify the unique splendor of intertidal ecosystems revealed during low tides. Of course, maintaining overall ecosystem health is critical, so collection or disturbance of tidal elements is prohibited. (There are two exceptions: single mussel collection for bait purposes is allowed and razor clam harvesting is permitted at Cape Perpetua.) Please be careful where you step, noting that barnacles and seaweeds are highly sensitive to foot traffic, and keep dogs leashed. For more information, contact the Oregon State Parks Information center at (800) 551-6949.

Haystack Rock
The enormous monolithic rock of Cannon Beach towers over a spectacular Marine Garden. Accessible only at low tide, the area is rich with sea anemones, urchins, sea stars and shellfish. Interpreters and volunteers from the Haystack Rock Awareness Program are available most summer days, ready to answer questions and help visitors identify marine flora and wildlife.

Cape Kiwanda
A sandstone headland with hundred-foot-tall cliffs, Cape Kiwanda boasts a small but exceptional intertidal area. Accessed via the Cape Kiwanda parking lot at the most northern end of Pacific City Beach, this Marine Garden offers opportunities for tidepooling and observation of cliff-nesting birds. Volunteers from the Cape Kiwanda Educational Learning Program (KELP!) are seasonally available with interpretive information, sometimes including on-site touch-tanks.

Otter Rock
The Marine Garden at Otter Rock can be accessed by a gravel trail down from the Devil's Punchbowl State Natural Area, just south of Lincoln City. This is a popular recreation area complete with intertidal habitat, seabird colonies and a frequent Harbor Seal haulout. Several interpretive panels will enhance your learning experience as you explore.

Yaquina Head
This Marine Garden is a 1.8-mile section of coastline at Yaquina Head, offering tidepooling, whalewatching and birdwatching favorites like Peregrine Falcons and Bald Eagles. Located approximately five miles north of Newport, follow the trail closest to the lighthouse parking area. Note that there is a $5 vehicle entry fee.

Yachats State Park
Encompassing the entire shoreline of Yachats State Park, this Marine Garden is abundant with shellfish and other tide pool creatures, as well as seabird nesting and Harbor Seal haulout areas. Follow 2nd Street in Yachats to arrive at a recently constructed viewpoint and interpretive signage.

Cape Perpetua
Located off of Highway 101 immediately south of Waldport, this area is abundant with intertidal life including mussels, anemones, snails and sea stars. Follow the Captain Cook Trail.

Harris Beach State Park
Found at the north end of Brookings, the Marine Garden at Harris Beach offers a three-mile stretch of intertidal habitat with interpretive walks and campground programs available. - By Jenna Boyle Feehan

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