Our World Famous Sea Stack
Haystack Rock is one of Oregon’s most recognizable landmarks, home to colorful tidepools and diverse birdlife. Featured in countless novels, television programs, and movies such as The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop. This basalt sea stack rises 235 feet from the edge of the shoreline. At low tide, you can walk right up to it and find colorful sea stars and other fascinating tidepool creatures in its intertidal area. Puffins can be observed on Haystack Rock from early spring to mid-summer, offering the most accessible viewing of Tufted Puffins in the Northwest. Many other varieties of birds can also be seen, making it a great bird-watching location year-round. It’s part of the Oregon Coast’s geological history, formed millions of years ago by lava flows that created many of the dramatic capes and headlands on the Oregon Coast. Haystack Rock is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and is a State protected marine environment.
Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach is one of the most recognizable and popular attractions on the Oregon coast. Its intertidal area is one of Oregon's seven Marine Gardens, a designation indicating its status as a protected area. Above the high tide line, Haystack Rock is protected as part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, providing habitat and viewing of a wide range of seabirds including the most accessible colony of Tufted Puffins in the Northwest. Haystack Rock's tidepools are home to many intertidal animals, including sea stars, anemones, crabs, chitons, limpets and nudibranchs. The most colorful and visible creatures are the sea stars that are exposed at low tide and the large green anemones just below the water surface. Its protected status requires that no creature or material be removed from within 300 yards of Haystack Rock and climbing above the barnacle line is strictly prohibited to avoid disturbing marine life and nesting birds. Visitors are encouraged to responsibly explore this exceptional natural area, walking only on sand and bare rock to avoid destroying the sea life that can take years to recover and preserve this outstanding natural area for all to enjoy. It's best to plan your visit to Haystack Rock an hour or more before low tide. Always practice beach safety when exploring the intertidal zone, be aware of tides and never turn your back on the ocean.
The Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) was developed in the mid-1980’s to preserve the fragile Haystack Rock ecosystem and provide interpretive information to visitors. Between mid-February and Late October during daytime low tides, HRAP presents interpretive programs at Haystack Rock with intertidal life forms on display. Microscopes are set up for the observation of smaller organisms. Birds nesting on Haystack Rock can be viewed through equipment set up for public use and trained staff members are on hand to answer questions. A schedule of HRAP interpretive programs and tide charts are available at City Hall, local businesses and at the Chamber of Commerce Information Center. A brochure describing the Haystack Rock ecosystem and the animals and birds dependent upon it is available at City Hall.
Haystack Rock is home to several bird species who nest there during the summer. One of the most popular and colorful birds to see is the Tufted Puffin. Puffins nest on the rock from April through July and are best viewed throughout June and July. They are squat, black birds with large, bright orange bills, white facial features and tufts of yellow feathers above the eyes. Look for them on the grassy north slope of Haystack Rock. This grassy area is where the puffins burrow tunnels into the soil so nests, eggs and chicks are protected from predators. On the south-facing cliffs of Haystack Rock, the lanky, greenish-black Pelagic Cormorant builds nests of seaweed on precarious narrow ledges high above the surf. These birds are unmistakable, especially when posed in their highly recognizable position with wings outstretched to dry after diving for fish. The most common bird you will see along the coast is the Western Gull. Mature gulls are white with gray wing feathers, yellow bill and pink legs. The grayish-brown gull is not the female, but an immature bird under four years old. Unlike most birds, both sexes have the same appearance. The black, pigeon-sized bird with a white wing patch and bright reddish-orange legs and feet is a Pigeon Guillemot. This bird constitutes the smallest population of the nesting birds on Haystack Rock. It nests in low, level crevices about three to ten meters above the ocean. It is especially sensitive to human presence, so please give it lots of space. Other birds you may see at Haystack Rock include the Black Oystercatcher, Harlequin Ducks and occasional visits from Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons who prey on other birds at the rock.
Some of the largest lava flows on earth poured out over the Columbia Plateau to the Oregon Coast beginning approximately 17 million years ago. Some of this lava flowed along the old Columbia River drainage system to the ocean and intruded into the soft marine sediments. After cooling and solidifying into solid basalt rock, they remained buried until geologic uplift and changes in sea level left these irregular basalt formations above the surface of the water where erosion washed away softer sediments creating the major headlands and rock formations that we see today. A stack or sea stack is a geological landform consisting of a steep and often vertical column or columns of rock in the sea near a coast, formed by wave erosion. Stacks are formed over time by wind and water, processes of coastal geomorphology.
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