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Finding Sea Lions and Bald Eagles in N. Oregon Coast's Tillamook County

Published 08/15/2018 at 5:11 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

Finding Sea Lions and Bald Eagles in N. Oregon Coast's Tillamook County

(Oceanside, Oregon) – Two creatures in particular can get the heart pumping with excitement on the Oregon coast: sea lions and bald eagles. (Above: sea lions at Oceanside's Three Arch Rocks).

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Sea lions are, of course, a huge thing in Newport and down around Florence. Bald eagles can be found just about anywhere, but especially it seems in the Seaside area and around various parts of Tillamook County. Whether it’s just anecdotal evidence and a greater number of cameras or actually a slightly larger population is hard to tell, but Rockaway Beach and Neskowin seem to be the center of the action for our national bird a little more often than not.

Where and how to see these great and awesome beasts? Here’s a few clues, and some interesting history.

According to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), around the Oceanside area, stellar sea lions have a really large roost, but you may need the help of optics to see them. Once you do, however, the sight is addicting.

Steller sea lions are usually present in good numbers at the Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife directly in front of Oceanside. Those big rocks host more than just spectacular photo opportunities. This larger cousin to the common California sea lion is federally listed as endangered along the Pacific Coast, but is locally abundant in some areas of the Oregon coast. Although more numerous on the southern Oregon coast, this population is the one stronghold of these sea lions on the north coast.

Three Arch Rocks are an official national wildlife refuge, which you can partially thank President Theodore Roosevelt for.

It all started late in the 19th century when Roosevelt spent a little time here, falling in love with the place. Then, early in the 20th century two conservationists, William L. Finley and Herman Bohlman, started photographing the area back in 1901.

They noticed hunters used to go to the rocks for target practice, killing sea lions and birds with startling regularity. Seabird eggs were also stolen in intense numbers.

The pair brought their observations to President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, and in 1907 Roosevelt declared the sea stacks a national wildlife refuge. Now, over 250,000 seabirds nest there throughout the year, and boats are not allowed within 500 feet of it from May through September.

The middle rock actually has an impressive hole in the middle, but this can only be seen by going a few miles north to the cliffs of Cape Meares. (Below, bald eagle photos courtesy Patti Berry of Rockaway Beach).


Bald eagles are spotted in all sorts of places along the Oregon coast, from Cannon Beach and Seaside down to Brookings on the California border. Cape Meares, near Oceanside, is known for some spectacular sights as they try and attack nests of other birds along the cliffs.

Newport's Range Bayer runs various birding events along the central coast and addressed what time of year is better than others for spotting bald eagles.

“Anytime during the year is equally good,” Bayer said. “We have a lot of resident adult bald eagles year-round along the Oregon coast.”

Bayer offered some tips for increasing your chances of spotting bald eagles. He said bays along the coast will help, like Alsea Bay at Waldport, Siletz Bay at Lincoln City, Netarts Bay at Oceanside, Florence's Siuslaw Bay, etc.

“Heading out on an outgoing and tide is good,” Bayer said. “You'll find them perched on pilings or logs. Looking up at the treelines of bays will help if you're trying to find adults.”

Bayer said they're looking for fish and sometimes other birds. Lodgings in Three Capes - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours

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