Oregon's Seastacks Are Remarkable Natural Areas
By Gary Hayes
Published: 02/19/2013  Updated: 08/15/2019
Sea stacks on the North Oregon Coast viewed from Indian Beach in Ecola State Park.
Sea stacks on the North Oregon Coast viewed from Indian Beach in Ecola State Park.  Photo by Gary Hayes

Oregon's beaches, decorated by rock formations protruding from the edge of the shore, are truly magical areas.

Picturesque sea stacks and small islands are a visual delight for sightseers and photographers, but they are also fascinating natural environments. They teem with life in the tidepools, provide critical habitat for many species of birds and challenge visitors to ponder their geologic origins. Nearly 2000 of these small islands and rocks along the coastline are part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and some of the most remarkable displays of nature occur here, often unnoticed by the casual beach goer.

These seastacks and small islands provide nesting grounds for seabirds that spend most of their year on the open waters of the ocean, swimming and diving for food. Tufted Puffins burrow into the grassy coverings to nest and Common Murres congregate in huge colonies, sometimes numbering in the tens of thousands, often covering the entire surface of bare rock where they balance their lone egg. Rocky ledges become nesting spots for cormorants, Pigeon Guillemots and gulls. Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons also frequent these nesting areas in search of an easy meal.

At water level, these rock formations in the intertidal zone are covered with unique creatures that have adapted to survive in this turbulent environment, most of the time under the water, but often left high and dry for hours. Barnacles, snails, limpets and mussels can completely blanket the rocks and colorful sea stars creep in to pry open a fresh mussel dinner. Green anemones lay open in pools left by the receding tide, often contrasting with pink encrusting coral or boldly colored sponge, like a science fiction garden in bloom. Small crabs hide in the shadows, sculpin fish dart for cover and if you look close, you may spot sea slugs, known as nudibranchs, that come in a variety of shocking colors and shapes.

Tread lightly and avoid disturbing the amazing creatures as you observe these remarkable natural areas.
Oregon's Seastacks Are Remarkable Natural Areas