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Exploring Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area Newport Oregon

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area
Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area near Newport Oregon

In between dogs barking and laughter from a nearby group of children playing on the black cobblestone beach I heard a low rumbling. A rumbling that almost resembled the sound of thunder. Despite the low hanging clouds and fog that filled the bay, the sun peeked out to remind us that there is the occasional chance of sun while on the Oregon coast. Although thunder could not completely be ruled out, I decided instead to trace where the source of the noise was coming from.  

The rumbling continued.  I relied on my poor hearing from years of standing too close to the stage of many loud rock concerts and most recently working at a dog kennel. The combination of the two sometimes results in me asking “what did you just say?” as I lean in with the one ear that hears better. After a few minutes of thoroughly concentrating on the origin of the noise, I finally discovered where it was coming from.

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area
Cobble Beach

Cobble Beach at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area uniquely stands out.  Most of the beaches in the area are tan or white sandy beaches, but this one is black polished rocks. As the waves ebbed and flowed back into the ocean the rumbling revealed itself.  It was the water receding through the rounded rocks back into the ocean.

Cobble Beach is one of many attractions at Yaquina Head, but the main attraction is the lighthouse.  The first day of operation for the lighthouse was August 20th, 1873. On the day of my visit, it was exactly 143 years later to the day. The Yaquina Head Lighthouse replaced the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, a few miles to the south. The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse was decommissioned in 1874 due to it not being able to be seen from the ocean. With the addition of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, it eliminated the sight problem by proudly standing out on the bluff, alerting vessels to the rocky shoreline.

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area
Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Tours are offered of the both lighthouses, however, I have only toured the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. Due to my misunderstanding, I missed the meeting spot of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse tour. Tours for the Yaquina Head are arranged at the Interpretive Center.  Pre-booking a tour is recommended in the summer.  Booking can be done online or by calling 1-877-6777. I did not plan ahead and found out upon arrival that I would have to wait hours for the next available tour, or be placed on a wait list and cross my fingers. If there was fallout on the next tour then I would be able to join.

Luckily there were a few people who did not show up for the next tour and I was granted a pass. It was here that I misunderstood where the meeting place for the tour was. To save yourself the same embarrassment the tour meets AT the lighthouse. NOT outside the Interpretive Center on a bench that looks like a great place for a tour to depart from. I sat on the bench like a doofus, finally giving up after several minutes of waiting past the tour start time. I meekly approached the ranger who had signed me up for the tour and asked what the deal was. She looked shocked and said, “the tour met at the lighthouse”.

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area
Rocky bluffs surrounding Yaquina Head

The lighthouse is about a 15-minute walk away from the center. There was nothing I could do about it by then.  The tour had already started and I was not an Olympic runner. The next tour was hours away, and those were hours I could not wait. So let that be a lesson to you, listen better than I did.

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area
Ocean views from Yaquina Head

In addition to the lighthouse and cobble beach, there are a few hiking trails offering the opportunity to see wildlife, such as whales, seals, seabirds and inter-tidal life. Most of the trails are easy to moderate, however, they all have fairly steep grades throughout their paths.

The park is managed by the BLM and requires an entry fee.  The fee does grant a pass for 3 days if you are driving a passenger car.  This is handy if you want to stretch your visit out over multiple days, or if you miss the lighthouse tour the first visit. The Interpretive Center is open 10 am to 4 pm daily. The park is open Monday – Friday 8 am to 5 pm and Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 5 pm. Tours of the lighthouse are offered in the summer season.

The Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area is located off of Highway 101 about ½ mile (.8 km) north of the town of Newport Oregon.

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Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area

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