We had the most spectacular experience today!
After I posted in the Pacific Coast Tide Pool & Beachcombing Identification & Appreciation group, I was thrilled when George and I were offered a tour of the tidepools around the Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve on the Oregon coast by Katy, the Programme Manager of the Cape Perpetua Collaborative.
Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve
Cape Perpetua itself is a large forested headland projecting into the Pacific Ocean on the central Oregon Coast in Lincoln County, Oregon, and the reserve is the largest of the 5 Marine Reserves in Oregon: Cape Falcon, Cascade Head, Otter Rock, Cape Perpetua, and Redfish Rocks. To the North and South are two Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and there is also a Seabird Protection Area.
Because of the landscape and composition of the area, it offers a huge diversity of habitats, which leads to a high concentration of different types of organisms in a relatively compact area – perfect for exploring the intertidal zone. It was a particularly awesome experience for us, visiting PNW tide pools for the first time!
Incredibly, marine reserves have only been a thing in Oregon for a decade – and while the science worldwide supports the use of reserves to preserve and bolster the success and diversity of ocean life, the red tape takes a long time to get through – I hope that we as a species move fast enough to preserve what’s left of our environment before there’s not enough of it left to support life – including our own!
A Negative Tide
Saturday, July 16th was a very low tide, -1.5 feet, which was perfect for adventures involving the Intertidal zone – the lower the tide, the more creatures you get to see!
Here is a chart from nearby Waldport, showing a negative tide of 1.99 feet.
Before we moved here, I had never heard of “minus tides”, so I was very lucky to be taken out to Bob Creek beach during one of the lowest tides of the year to see what that meant.
The PNW is very different from NZ landscapes, from subtle differences in vegetation to dramatically different denizens of the tide pools (or rock pools for us non-Americans – because we are in America, I will be calling them tide pools from now on).
The sea life I am accustomed to seeing is built for colder waters, and while the rock pools at places like Makara beach teem with life (and sandflies), they didn’t prepare me at ALL for the Oregon coast.
Wildlife in general in NZ is in the same tones of green, brown, and black – for example, our kina (sea urchins) are a perfectly respectable brown and black, so I assumed that all the colourful photos of Oregon coast creatures were enhanced by the photographers.
Spoiler alert, reader: I was mistaken.
Why Bob Creek?
After chatting to Katy and the very helpful Jamie, one of the Tidepool Ambassadors from the Cape Perpetua Collaborative, we determined that Bob Creek would be the best location to allow for accessibility and the range of organisms we wanted to see.
After looking at the different options within the reserve, I was still pretty undecided which I wanted to visit, but given the choice between Bob Creek and Yachats State park, I was leaning towards Yachats*.
*which is absolutely not pronounced the way you think it is
Bob Creek is a small, crescent-shaped beach, kind of in the middle of nowhere. I was a concerned, because it looked like it might be a bit small to find all the intertidal creatures I wanted to see – and how could it be that interesting when it only had a small parking lot, and no amenities? Surely, if it were that great, more people would come? And when I looked at the image in the header on the Outdoor Project site, it didn’t look there would be that much to see.
Spoiler alerts continue: I continued to be mistaken. As I said at the time, this is why you ask the experts!
As you may or may not know, reader, Drayer Ink HQ is in Portland, Oregon. Bob Creek is a considerable distance South-West of our place, and time and tide wait for no one, so to make it to the recommended 8.30am start time, we had to leave our place at 5am.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing – there was much less traffic, and with years of pre-dawn craft market starts under our belts, we certainly know how to plan for our needs the night before so we can leave efficiently in the morning, so we had two thermoses of hot coffee to keep George alive, plus he baked a batch of banana chocolate chip walnut muffins for the trip, and I filled all our remaining drinking vessels with water.
My New Zealand driver’s license is valid for driving in Oregon for a year from my arrival – which means it hasn’t stopped being legal for me to drive on it yet – but it expired at the start of July, and with one thing and another taking priority, I haven’t got around to getting my Oregon license yet. So George was solo chauffeur for the whole trip, a monster undertaking.
Our plan was to stop in Yachats for a quick loo break and maybe grab me a decaf coffee, but when we got there, we discovered that it appeared to be 100% motels (this was not true, but there was no reception to ask Auntie Google, so we had to trust what we could see while driving) so we decided to hope for a rest stop or campsite on the way there.
The next place we saw that had a “restrooms” sign was Devil’s Churn. which I expect is even more spectacular when the tide is high. It was incredible as it was – I plan to return and do the trail sometime.
I am completely unfamiliar with the term “day use”, which I keep seeing everywhere, and the need for passes of some sort to take advantages of it, so that’s another thing we will research carefully before we come back – I’m not sure if we were supposed to have purchased a pass this time around, either, although we only stopped briefly to use the facilities and carry on.
Suitably refreshed, with an invigorating dose of vertigo and a short stretch of the old (and very stiff) leggies, and we trotted off to the car again to resume our journey.