Many colorful and strange creatures live where Cannon Beach’s rocky shorelines and beaches meet the sea. As the tide recedes, a unique and diverse environment is revealed in intertidal areas and tidepools. Bright sea stars in a variety of colors cling tightly to rocks. Green anemones lay open like flowers at the bottom of pools. Look carefully and you may find varieties of crabs, fish, snails, limpets, coral, sponge and colorful sea slugs known as nudibranchs. These are just a few of the coastal marine creatures that you may discover in the tidepools of Cannon Beach.
Haystack Rock offers the easiest access to the intertidal area and tidepools, but there are also plenty of other nearby areas with great tidepools and fewer crowds. For optimum viewing, it is best to be in the intertidal area one hour before daily low tides. Tides of 0.0 feet and lower (minus tides) are best for tidepool viewing, but when the ocean is calm many intertidal areas can be observed even at plus one or two-foot tides. Minus tides in Cannon Beach begin in spring and the lowest minus tides occur in summer.
When visiting the intertidal area, be aware that the creatures and environment are easily damaged. To avoid this, walk only on sand or bare rock and watch your step. Avoid walking on rocks covered with barnacles for your safety and to avoid damaging the fragile ecosystem. Many tidepools have plenty of viewing opportunities at the sand-rock interface, where standing on rock can be avoided almost entirely. Slow down, look closely and watch carefully to observe the sea life in its home. Quietly watching a pool or gently moving seaweed aside will reveal organisms and behavior that would otherwise go unnoticed. Always be aware of your surroundings when visiting the intertidal area and never turn your back on the ocean.
The Haystack Rock Awareness Program offers regular interpretive programs at the base of Haystack Rock during low tides throughout the year. The program’s knowledgeable interpreters help visitors identify the many creatures that reside there and often have live displays that can be viewed. Haystack Rock is a protected area, a National Wildlife Refuge and one of seven designated Marine Gardens on the Oregon Coast. To help protect the bird and sea life on and around Haystack Rock, climbing on the rock or entering seabird nesting areas is not allowed. Dogs must be leashed and collecting of any materials is prohibited within 300 yards.