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Haystack Rock

Our World Famous Sea Stack

Haystack Rock is one of Oregon’s most recognizable landmarks, home to colorful tidepools and diverse birdlife. It has been 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. Wide other varieties of birds can also be seen, making it a terrific bird-watching location year-round. In addition, 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 Oregon's most recognizable and popular attractions. Its intertidal area is one of Oregon's seven Marine Gardens, 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 exposed at low tide and the giant green anemones just below the water's surface. Its protected status requires that no animal 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 unique natural area for all to enjoy. Planning your visit to Haystack Rock an hour or more before low tide is best. Always practice beach safety when exploring the intertidal zone, be aware of waves, and never turn your back on the ocean.

The Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) was developed in the mid-1980s 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 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 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 that nest there during the summer. The Tufted Puffin is one of the most popular and colorful birds to see. 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 to protect nests, eggs, and chicks from predators. On the south-facing cliffs of Haystack Rock, the lanky, greenish-black Pelagic Cormorant builds seaweed nests 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 Western Gull is the most common bird along the coast. Mature gulls are white with gray wing feathers, yellow bills, and pink legs. The grayish-brown gull is not a female but an immature bird under four years old. Unlike most birds, both sexes have the same appearance. A Pigeon Guillemot is a black, pigeon-sized bird with a white wing patch and bright reddish-orange legs and feet. This bird constitutes the smallest population of nesting birds on Haystack Rock. It nests in low, level crevices about three to ten meters above the ocean. It is susceptible 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 earth's most extensive lava flows poured over the Columbia Plateau to the Oregon Coast 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. Changes in sea level left these bizarre basalt formations above the water's surface, where erosion washed away softer sediments creating the prominent headlands and rock formations 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 developed over time by wind and water, processes of coastal geomorphology.


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