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Haystack Rock

Haystack Rock"Peering into a tide pool is like looking through a window into another world... "James Luther Davis,
Seasonal Guide to the Natural Year


The question we are most frequently asked is What is THAT!?! Sometimes--not always--we have an answer. Below you'll find more common questions...and even some answers!

How tall is Haystack Rock?
Haystack Rock is 235 feet tall. (Plus a few inches when it snows.)

Who built Haystack Rock / How did it get here?
Good old Mother Nature 'built' Haystack Rock. The rock part of Haystack Rock is actually lava from a volcano that erupted millions and millions of years ago on the borders of Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Molten lava flowed seaward down what was once the Columbia River Gorge. When it hit soft sediment on its journey west, the lava went underground. When it came to a vent or soft spot (like it did here in Cannon Beach) it "popped up." Scientists know this because they have identified "signature" chemicals in Haystack Rock that only match volcanoes on the other side of the state.

Why is climbing prohibited?
Haystack Rock was designated a Wildlife Refuge in 1968 and one of the rules is "no climbing." Climbing Haystack Rock is prohibited for TWO REASONS: (1) to protect people from climbing hazards and falling rock and (2) to protect the birds that nest on the Rock from people.

What are the "Rules of the Rock"?
To begin with….No poking, prodding, prying, removing, eating, squashing, stomping, kicking, licking, collecting, crushing or otherwise injuring plants and animals. Check out our Tidepool Etiquette page
to learn more!

AnemoneDo anemones sting? Can I touch 'em?
YES and NO...in that order! Each tentacle on the anemone contains a stinging cell called a nematocyst. This nematocyst is a spring-loaded coil that releases when the tentacle is touched. There is a toxin in the coil that temporarily paralyzes its prey or scares off a predator. Some people are highly allergic to anemone stings.
Plus, touching or poking anemones causes them to squirt and to lose the water that they need to survive exposure during low tide. Just like we take a big breath of air before we go underwater, anemones take a big gulp of water before they go into the air. Poking or touching them makes them lose that water and makes it difficult for them to survive until the water returns. (Photo courtesy of Gary Hayes)

What birds live at Haystack Rock?
Most of the birds that you see at Haystack Rock only live there in spring and summer. They are: Western Gulls, Tufted Puffins, Pelagic Cormorants, Pigeon Guillemots, Black Oystercatchers. Check out our Haystack Habitat Page to learn more!

Is that a penguin out there?
We hope not! You might be looking at a Brown Pelican, Tufted Puffin, Common Murre, Harlequin Duck or something else...probably not a penguin.

When do the puffins come? When do they leave?
The puffins arrive late March or early April and leave some time near the end of August. Check out our Haystack Habitat Page to learn more about the Tufted Puffin.

What do sea stars eat?
Sea stars (or starfish) eat all kinds of stuff but their favorite food is the mussel. It takes about TWO DAYS for a sea star to eat a single mussel. Sea stars can go up to 20 months without food. Learn more about sea stars and other invertebrates on our Below are some of the Birds, Marine Invertebrates and other things that call Haystack Rock home. Many of the birds come to the rock in the spring and stay through the summer--just like some of our human visitors! The marine invertebrates are hearty year-rounders.

Can I take this home? (...I think it is dead.)
Nope, sorry. The treasures that you find at Haystack Rock belong at Haystack Rock. Imagine if everyone who came here took just a little something….there would certainly be NOTHING left. (Plus, imagine if a family of giant green anemones came to YOUR house and wanted to take you or all your furniture back to Haystack Rock!) Even with NO COLLECTING rules at Haystack Rock there are only ONE-THIRD of what is normally found in a healthy tidepool area. Haystack Rock is loved to death. Collecting around Haystack Rock (300 yards from the base in all directions) is prohibited and the creatures (alive and dead), plants and even bits of shell are protected by Haystack Rock's status as a Marine Garden.

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