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Oregon State Parks

USA Parks
Oregon Coast Region
Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge
Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge © Rick Stasel
Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge © Rick Stasel
On foggy days, a massive silhouette encircled by ocean transports your imagination to times past. If you were close to the refuge in spring the raucous calls of more than 220,000 nesting common murre would fill your ears. Designated as the first National Wildlife Refuge west of the Mississippi River, Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge lies ? mile offshore of the community of Oceanside. One of the Oregon coast's best-known landmarks, the refuge consists of three large and six smaller rocks totaling 15 acres. The refuge is one of the smallest designated Wilderness Areas in the country.
Nature of the Area
The rocks provide habitat for Oregon's largest breeding colony of tufted puffins. These flamboyant birds with their large bright orange beaks and long yellow head tufts are one of the most recognizable seabirds on the Oregon coast.

The refuge also supports the largest breeding colony of common murre south of Alaska and is the only pupping site on the north Oregon coast for the federally threatened Steller sea lion. Measuring 10' in length and weighing up to 2,000 pounds, the Steller sea lion is the larger of the two sea lions found on the Oregon coast.
History of the Area
Three Arch Rocks was established as a National Wildlife Refuge largely due to the efforts of two young men. Conservationists William Finley and Herman Bohlman began photographing the wildlife at Three Arch Rocks from the town of Oceanside in 1901. Several times a week they witnessed hunters row to the rocks to kill scores of sea lions for their skins and oil. Even more disturbing, were the sportsmen that came to the rocks each Sunday for target practice. On these days, thousands of seabirds were exterminated, not for their meat or feathers, but purely for sport. Egg harvesting was also taking its toll on seabird populations. Due to the lack of chicken farms in California at this time, seabird eggs were very valuable and sold for as much as a dollar per dozen.

After studying and photographing the wildlife on the rocks for several years, they brought their findings to President Theodore Roosevelt. They explained the value of the rocks as habitat for wildlife and emphasized the need to protect dwindling populations from hunters and sportsmen. They stressed that a wildlife sanctuary would ensure the survival of seabird and marine mammal populations.

In 1907, Finley and Bohlman's efforts were rewarded when President Roosevelt declared Three Arch Rocks a National Wildlife Refuge. Today, it protects over a quarter million nesting seabirds and is a favorite haulout site for marine mammals. It is the oldest National Wildlife Refuge west of the Mississippi River.

Visitor Comments, Memories and Reviews

Area Campgrounds
Netarts Bay RV Park & Marina
2260 Bilyeu
Netarts, OR
Big Spruce RV Park
4850 Netarts Highway W
Tillamook, OR

Both Cape Meares and Oceanside are located on the Three Capes Scenic Route west of Tillamook. When approaching Tillamook on US Highway 101, follow signs for the Three Capes Scenic Route.


Oregon State Parks