Pristine Laboratory: The Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

Category: Exploring Nature Item

Back to Cannon Beach and Vicinity

This stretch of Oregon Coast, which starts at Tillamook Head and extends south to the California border, is the largest breeding habitat for sea birds on the west coast of the United States. It is known as the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and you can explore parts of it all up and down the coastline.

In the Bandon area, you can observe the variety and abundance of birds from the Face Rock Wayside which is located to the south of the Coquille River and the Bandon waterfront. Nature trails extend both north and south from this point, offering amazing views of the beach and basalt islands which pierce through the dark waves below.

These islands, sometimes referred to sea stacks, provide a virtually untouchable refuge for tens of thousands of birds. The heights are inaccessible to most predators and human beings, which protects the large colonies of sea birds like Tufted Puffins and Pigeon Guillemots. During the Spring and Summer, the islands become so thick with nesting birds there’s often little room to move. The birds will raise their young during the warm months, then head back out to sea for the Fall and Winter.

Because the islands are protected and not open to the public, they also serve as a pristine outdoor laboratory for scientists. From this unique vantage point, scientists can not only monitor the health of seabird populations, but of all kinds of marine wildlife. Additionally, they can look at issues like invasive species, environmental contaminates, ocean acidification and climate change. For more detail on these activities, see the USFWS Comprehensive Conservation and Wilderness Stewardship Plan

Related Information: Conservation Projects | Wildlife Spotting


Gimme Shelter: Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

An employee with the US Fish and Wildlife Service describes the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and how her early fascination with birds and nature led to her career on the Oregon Coast.

At Home on the Rock

School kids congregate at the base of the Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach to welcome back the Tufted Puffin, one of several seabirds which use the offshore islands to nest and raise their young.