The Tidal Pools and the Yaquina Head Lighthouse

by Pool Builders on 10-22-2007 in Articles

We visited Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Oregon early in the day to learn of its history. Lighthouses were necessities of the nineteenth century. Rocky coasts and poor charting often spelled doom for ships. The lighthouse functioned to warn sea captains of danger and help with location and navigation. Modern day GPS and satellites have made lighthouses almost obsolete. However, Yaquina Head's light shines today as it has for more than a century through its Fresnel lens. The lens's construction took place on site and contains 250 pieces of glass. That alone makes it a wonder. Yet, the precision of its construction and pattern allows the light to be seen 20 miles out to sea. The lighthouse itself is made from 400,000 bricks, is 93 feet tall (tallest on the Oregon coast), and has no steel reinforcement. One can climb to the top using 114 steps, which we did.

We took a look at the cobblestone tidal pools while at high tide finding Harbor seals basking on the outlying rocks. Glaucous-winged, Western and Herring Gulls rode the winds in and about the cliffs. Brandt's Cormorants roosted on the larger, taller rocks, and Surf Scoter and Western Grebes rode waves as they washed in.

At 5:44 PM low tide occurred along the coast of Oregon this September day, 2007, and we were drawn back to the tidal pools in the evening. Tidal Pools are fantastic marine nurseries. Living organisms which inhabit such must be well adapted to the exposure that the ebb and flow of the tides dictate.

At low tide, we were not only able to walk farther onto the cobbles but also onto the basaltic rock platforms that fingered their way into the Pacific. Upon these platforms were beds of mussels and shelves of Leaf Barnacles. How ever so dead looking the mussels and barnacles appeared, they were not. Just waiting for the tide to roll back in when they would open their shells and feed again.

Small fissures and ponds held even more colorful and amazing species, green sea anemones, purple sea urchins too numerous to count. Starfish came in all manner of size and color. The largest of these were as big as dinner plates and burnt orange in color. Some were palm size and purple or grayish. Some starfish were attached alone to rocks while in other places they were tumbled together.

One very fascinating creature at first looked like the basalt upon which it sat. Black, slightly domed and elongated, and only partially covered with a row of eight saddle shaped plates, one might have overlooked it. Such is the Katy Chiton, which we found in one small pool. Chitons are what I would characterize as living fossils. Surely, biologists refer to these creatures as close to the ancestral mollusks. They attach themselves to the bottom of rocks in shallow water and feed on algae. Chitons can move by way of their elongated foot.

Of course, exposure at low tide means dinnertime for the gulls and cormorants. We watched as a California Gull spent his evening at easy pickings. The cormorants were more active diving in the shallows. There were a couple of Harbor Seals curious enough to swim closer to shore, but not too close, to watch us watch them. Who was the observer; who the observed?

Experiencing the Yaquina Head Lighthouse and its tidal pools at both high and low tide was a highlight to our trip. We would recommend to all this adventure. One would be astounded by all there is in this most unusual habitat. There is a profound appreciation, all at once, for both the fragility of life but the tenaciousness with which it occupies its chosen niche. It is easy to note the interdependence of living organisms in tidal pools. The concept of food webs and biomes are so apparent in this most unique of environments.

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