Preface: Around Haystack Rock, which dominates Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast, you can always spot interesting marine life in the tidal pools at low tide.
Check for tidal reports to find the best hours for spotting starfish, sea anemones, mussels, tiny fish, and kelp.
My visit in June of 2009 happened to coincide with a really low tide. Here’s the scoop.
June 24, was the lowest tide of 2009 at Oregon’s Cannon Beach, and my husband and I left our room-with-a-view at the Hallmark Resort and skipped breakfast to be at Haystack Rock for the 8:40 a.m. event. So did hundreds of other people—and their dogs. Masses of folks wandered around the tidal pools revealed by the receding water.
Luckily, Cannon Beach’s Friends of Haystack Rock—a nonprofit organization with an army of community volunteers (wearing red jackets or T-shirts)—are on hand to answer questions about various types of kelp and to point out marine creatures in the tidal pools that were created by the low tide.
The group also helps raise awareness among visitors about these fragile ecosystems, and its volunteers keep an eye out to prevent people from damaging barnacles, muscles and starfish.
The Friends of Haystack Rock volunteers also loan out binoculars for identifying the many seabirds, including the fantastic tufted puffin who flit around the rock, where they build their nests.
Thanks to this preservation-minded group, visitors will be able to explore and study the undersea world for many years to come.
One of the best things about having nature interpreters on site is that you can learn so much more about all the species you’re seeing than if you were all by yourself. You can point to a bird soaring around Haystack Rock and one of these devoted volunteers will identify it as a pelagic cormorant or a pigeon guillemots or the Western gull.
The colorful tidal pools—hidden mysteries of underwater life—are exposed only at low tide. This makes them all the more wondrous.
Sea anemones are among my favorites because I love how they look like underwater flowers with their delicate filaments waving in the water. If your shadow falls across an open anemone, it will react by retracting its little arms so that it looks like a tube. If you stand still, you might witness them slowly reopen like a sunflower in the morning sun.
For more information about the Oregon coast, as well as the state’s other breathtaking sights, visit Travel Oregon.
—Laurel Kallenbach, writer and editor
Originally published on June 25, 2009