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Summer Preview of Wild Nature on Oregon Coast: Whales to New Beaches

Published 06/20/21 at 1:25 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Summer Preview of Wild Nature on Oregon Coast: Whales to New Beaches

(Oregon Coast) – Every year, summer brings one new thing or another to the Oregon coastline. Whether it's wildlife or the vast changes that can happen to your favorite beach, here is a preview and some insider's tips. (Above: high sand levels vastly change Oceanside so you can walk around the point)

Above: Fogarty Beach - a section normally untouchable in winter it sometimes opens up in summer

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The Joys of High Sand Levels. Summer always brings higher sand levels to the beaches of Oregon, and most years this means various remarkable changes for many parts of the coast. In many areas, it will look remarkably different, and some beaches may actually have new parts to them – in a way a new beach.

When sand levels get extremely high they can create a sort of faux minus tide look: it seems like the tide is farther out there all the time. Oceanside is often the recipient of this. When the sandbars build up just offshore, they keep the tides back and you can walk around Maxwell Point with considerable ease instead of having to tread through the tunnel to get to the secret beach and its many tidepool options.

You may be able to enter the Devil's Punchbowl more often than usual. Arch Cape suddenly allows you access to the arch that gave the town its name. The beach at Coos Bay's Sunset Bay gets larger and you may get to see rock formations not normally seen. Many of the rocky giants around the Oregon coast become suddenly accessible, such as at Bandon, Ariya's Beach or Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach. Fogarty Beach near Depoe Bay could have a section accessible that you can never dream of getting near during winter.

Humpback at Astoria; photo courtesy Seaside Aquarium

Masses of Pelicans - Whales on Some Parts of N. Oregon Coast. This is usually a late summer thing. Parts of Seaside's shoreline can get some wild, frenzied bird activity – because, in turn, of even more frenzied baitfish activity in the area. Many years – not every one – you may see an extraordinary feeding whirlwind as pelicans swarm the Necanicum River and wrestle with gobs of fish.

Late summer brings a lot of anchovies, herring and schade for the Oregon coast. This can also attract a lot of humpback whales and Orcas from the Washington coast to the stretch from Cannon Beach into the Columbia River.

Bird feeding frenzy at the Necanicum: courtesy Seaside Aquarium

The more visible feeding activity takes place around Astoria near the river's mouth, and it seems it's happening more and more often in recent years. Killer whales and Humpbacks can get quite numerous, and they occasionally create the spectacle of weaving in and out of the recreational boats in the area, and easily spotted from the shoreline. There's a decent amount of splashing and diving going on.

On more than a few occasions, Humpbacks have been spotted lingering near Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock during that time.

Baby Seal Watching on the South Coast. For a little while longer the area will be in baby seal season, and that means stay the heck away from them. Always report a stranded baby seal to State Police if you see one on the beach.

However, there are places on the southern Oregon coast where you can watch them safely at a distance, where it won't disturb the parent.

Even into early summer seals can be seen with their young in places like Shore Acres State Park. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) said that area offers several trails that skirt the bluffs along the shoreline, thus giving you opportunities to see them as well as other wildlife.

“Be careful not to get too close to the bluffs when looking for wildlife - falling can be dangerous and deadly,” ODFW said.

Rocky areas like this on the south Oregon coast are excellent for checking out nesting seabirds, harbor seals, and sea lions. ODFW suggested to keep a watch from Cape Arago State Park, where many seals and sea lions use Simpson's Reef and the Shell Island area, seen from the park.

“Now is a great time to visit the lookout at Simpson's Reef, which offers a great view of these animals,” ODFW said.

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Humpback in the Columbia, courtesy Seaside Aquarium

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