The Oregon Coast Aquarium
Up close and personal with local sea life
No visit to Newport is complete without a stop at the Oregon Coast Aquarium overlooking scenic Yaquina Bay just south of the city’s iconic bridge. The Aquarium strives to be a center of excellence for ocean literacy and fun, and plays an active role in conservation, education and animal rehabilitation efforts. The Aquarium’s world-class indoor and outdoor exhibits have earned the facility consistent recognition as one of the top ten aquariums in the country.
Wonders await in every corner of the aquarium. A wander through 1.32-million gallons of seawater in Passages of the Deep immerses visitors into the world of local marine life – including over 100 sharks. The series of tunnels feature 360 degree views of three different kinds of landscapes an underwater explorer might find off the Oregon Coast.
For fans of fuzz, the Aquarium’s sea otters’ and their playful antics provide endless entertainment. Guests can view their training progress during three daily public feedings.
Meet the Aquarium’s seals and sea lions through the submerged and above water viewing windows that let visitors peer into their world. Daily feeding presentations are a favorite of guests who delight in viewing the California sea lions’ athleticism at work. For an unforgettable behind the scenes experience, book a whiskery kiss delivered by one of the Aquarium’s seals or sea lions!
The Aquarium also boasts the largest walk-through outdoor seabird aviary in the United States. Tufted and horned puffins, common murres, rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemots and black oystercatchers all call the craggy cliffs and clear water home. Daily feedings delight visitors of all ages as each bird larks about to eat the fishes of their choice. In addition to the Seabird Aviary, the Aquarium is also home to two turkey vultures. Guests are often surprised by the size of the brother and sister pair, Ichabod and Olive, who busy themselves with toys and other enrichment items, and sometimes leave their exhibit to meet visitors on a keeper’s glove.
A nearby underwater cave is inhabited by a Giant Pacific Octopus. Viewers sometimes need to stretch their powers of observation to spot the creature, which can camouflage with its environment and squeeze its soft body into dark crags. Researchers now believe that octopuses are as smart as house cats, capable of navigating mazes, using simple tools and recognizing individuals. Guests may schedule an octopus encounter to feed and shake suckers with one of these intelligent, seemingly alien animals.
The Aquarium is open daily in the summertime (beginning May 28), 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. To check for discounts, purchase tickets and learn more, visit www.aquarium.org. Oregon Coast Aquarium is located at 2820 SE Ferry Slip Road, Newport. For more information, call (541) 867-3474.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium Celebrates Twenty-Five Years
By Peter Pearsall
In 2017-18, the Oregon Coast Aquarium celebrates its silver anniversary. Twenty-five years of puffins, sea lions, and octopuses. Twenty-five years of education programs, family vacations, and conservation initiatives. The Oregon Coast Aquarium has become one of the state's premier attractions, drawing some 400,000 visitors to Newport each year.
In hindsight, building an aquarium on the central Oregon coast seems like a no-brainer. Newport, wrapping around beautiful, bountiful Yaquina Bay and abutting the Pacific Ocean, is an ideal setting for a facility that cultivates public interest in marine environments. Historically, Newport’s economy was largely supported by the timber and commercial fishing industries. The 1980s were marked by dramatic declines in both, inspiring the community to form the Yaquina Bay Economic Foundation to foster and encourage economic diversification in Lincoln County. The Aquarium became the legacy project for the Foundation.
Support from public and private agencies, corporations, foundations and individuals garnered over $11.5 million for the Aquarium’s construction. An additional $14 million was financed through tax-free bond anticipation notes issued by the state and underwritten by the United States National Bank of Oregon. The Aquarium’s design and construction was brought about via the incredible minds and hands of those at BIOS (an aquarium design firm), the landscape architecture firm Walker Macy, and architecture firm SRG Partnership Inc., among others.
The Aquarium opened on May 23, 1992. Nine months later, one million visitors had walked through its doors, beating attendance projections by eight months. The Aquarium’s stellar reputation spread in the following years. It was the second most popular attraction in Oregon, and rated among the nation’s ten best by Parade Magazine.
While the Aquarium might be best known world-wide for its most famous resident, Keiko the killer whale of “Free Willy” fame, in residence at the Aquarium from 1996 to 1998, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is renowned and beloved for many other reasons as well. Rotating exhibits have enlightened visitors on every topic from deep-sea exploration to turtles to shipwrecks. Its award-winning bird husbandry program was the first to ever hatch captive-bred tufted puffins, pigeon guillemots, rhinoceros auklets, and black oystercatchers. The Aquarium’s grounds, integrated into the landscape and environment of the adjacent Yaquina estuary, serve almost as an additional exhibit, connecting visitors to an iconic Pacific Northwest habitat.
In addition to the 9,000 students who visit the Aquarium annually with school field trips, the facility’s outreach programs visit over 120 schools across the Northwest each year, reaching more than 35,000 students.
The Aquarium also unveiled its new exhibit, “Big Bites,” which showcases creatures with incredible feeding adaptions. Visitors will be introduced to the dazzling variety of fishes’ jaws and teeth, featuring piranha, vampire tetra, parrotfish, porcupine fish and other toothsome species.
The Aquarium’s Board of Directors and senior management have recently completed a new strategic plan for the years ahead. With a renewed focus on philanthropy and commitment to leadership, the Aquarium is planning its next bold steps forward. New projects, programs, exhibits and behind-the-scenes encounters will reinforce the mission and expand the Aquarium’s role as a leader in marine science education and quality family fun.
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