Hector and I found the name Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area a bit unusual. But we discovered that an Outstanding Natural Area (ONA) is a Bureau of Land Management designation established by Congress “primarily to protect unique scenic, scientific, educational, and recreational values. Recreation activities focus on education and interpretation of the ONA’s unique resources”. So there.
June reportedly has the most negative tides of the year in Oregon. So we visited Yaquina Head’s tide pools during low tide on days when there was a negative tide. The weather was variable as is the norm around here, from sunshine to wind to rain.
As we walked down to the appropriately named “Cobble Beach” we encountered multiple groups of students with teachers and several rangers. It was fun, but quite noisy. Overhearing bits of the lesson, it sounded like a great day of learning.
The small effort paid off; during our multiple visits we saw many critters including lots of hermit crabs, ochre sea stars, purple sea urchins, sea anemones, mussels, acorn and gooseneck barnacles, limpets, tidepool sculpins (fish) and black turban snails.
There were helpful volunteers perched on the rocks, sharing “sightings” of special critters and pointing out some different types of seaweed that I was ignoring while looking for critters. There was feather boa, seersucker kelp, black pine and iridescent, among others. This place is full of life!
And the most fun find of all – a Pacific Giant Octopus. He was hiding under a rock in the high tide zone. And then he swam out. Once the students got wind of this, there was a mob scene of excited students walking over, and when the poor frightened octopus spotted the onlookers’ shadows and heard their excited screams, he quickly swam under another rock. The ranger told us that the octopus had probably gotten stuck in these higher rocks and if he couldn’t get back out to sea they would help him.
The ranger. a BLM employee, gathered the group outside the lighthouse and told us that once we stepped inside, the tour would become a first-person tour. To clarify, the ranger would take on the character of one of the actual lighthouse keepers from the 19th century, and, of course, he was dressed the part.
As lighthouse keeper, he treated us as a visiting group from olden days. He described “his” and “his” assistants’ many duties, including maintaining the light; cleaning, polishing and repairing. It was very informative and entertaining and the kids in the group loved it.
The Yaquina Head Lighthouse’s tower is Oregon’s tallest. It took about one year and over 370,000 bricks to construct it. We climbed up the beautiful staircase to the watch room just below the light. Then the “lighthouse keeper” allowed one person at a time to climb up a small stairway and take a peek into the beautiful lens.
Different seagulls took turns at this. I wonder how they decided who gets to taunt the eagle next?