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Three Arch Rocks

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Three Arch Rocks from Netarts Spit (bobcat)
Closeup of Three Arch Rocks from Oceanside (bobcat)


Three Arch Rocks is a wilderness and a national wildlife refuge, at 15 total acres one of the smallest examples of either. It was also the first national wildlife refuge established west of the Mississippi, thanks to the efforts of William L. Finley and Herman Bohlman, who rowed out to the rocks to photograph the raucous colonies of seabirds and sea lions. Unfortunately, target shooters, hunters and egg gatherers also rowed out to the islands, only half a mile from Oceanside, to slaughter sea birds, sea lions, and collect eggs. Upon petition, a national wildlife refuge was declared in 1907 by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Bring powerful binoculars to scope out the rocks. The stacks are hosts to the largest nesting colony of common murres south of Alaska, about 100,000 birds. They also provide refuge for Oregon's biggest colony of tufted puffins and are the only site on the northern Oregon coast where the massive Steller's sea lions give birth and raise their pups. Northern and California sea lions as well as harbor seals can also be spotted. Other birds that nest here include Brandt's cormorants, pelagic cormorants, pigeon guillemots, and Leach's storm petrels.

These spectacular sea stacks are composed of the Grande Ronde flow of the Columbia River Basalts, which reached the ocean 15.6-17 million years ago. They were once part of Maxwell Point. Each of the three largest stacks (Storm Rock, Finley Rock, Shag Rock) is an arch and there are six smaller rocks. Seal Rock is closest to the shore and has a wide haul out bench for Steller's sea lions.

Three Arch Rocks can be viewed from Cape Meares and Oceanside. The rocks cannot be visited by the public and boats need to keep a 500-foot distance from May 1st through September 15th.

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