Connecting with Oregon’s underwater world can be a challenge for those without an intrepid spirit for getting wet in our cold coastal environment. Furthermore our current COVID-climate has put a damper on many travelers plans to visit the Oregon coast this summer. But fortunately for marine lovers with a curiosity for what lies beneath, Oregon’s Marine Reserves Program, which manages 5 special protected areas along the Oregon coast, offers some amazing opportunities to virtually dive beneath the surface of these treasured ocean spaces from the comfort of your own home. We’re always an advocate for getting wet, but when you have to stay at home, here’s some eye candy and education on Oregon’s Marine Reserves and Protected Areas. The following series of videos begins with some background on the  system of protected areas, followed by a virtual underwater tour of each site. Individual videos are also offered on each site to showcase some of the community profiles and land-sea connections of these special ocean areas.

Video: Oregon’s Marine Reserve and Protected Area System

Join Cristen Don, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Reserve Program Leader, on a policy overview and virtual tour of the reserves and protected areas statewide. The first 15 minutes focus on the background of the process and legislation to designate these special areas while the second 15 minutes takes you on a virtual tour beneath each of the marine reserve and protected areas sites.

Video: Cape Falcon Marine Reserve

We’ve written many times about this site – it’s a treasured surf and recreational destination adjacent to the all too well known site of Oswald West State Park, a.k.a “Short Sands”. The last of Oregon’s Marine Reserves to be designated in 2016, this is probably a site you might best avoid in the summer and visit in the winter. Why? Because everybody and their dog (literally) go here in the summer, creating safety and increasing management concerns.

No doubt Cape Falcon is an awesome place to visit, but we tend to think it’s a lot cooler when you don’t have to share it with a thousand other people or be part of that problem – or given it’s high use, you pitch in by actively engaging in organized stewardship activities. Learn more about local efforts like these through the Friends of Cape Falcon.

Video: Cascade Head Marine Reserve

Just north of Lincoln City, Cascade Head Marine Reserve is another stunning treasure of the Oregon coast, and thanks to some great protections on land, you can hike around the adjacent headland without some of the same crowding and management issues in the summer that we see shoreside of Cape Falcon. Additionally, Cascade Head boasts the adjacent Salmon River estuary, and is the only marine reserve in Oregon with wetland and estuarine habitat adjoining.

The headland, estuary and nearshore ocean environment are all part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve recognized for it’s extremely unique and rich ecological systems and strong management partnerships of public and private natural resource and conservation groups.

Video: Otter Rock Marine Reserve

Many kids and adults alike have fond associations with learning to surf or going tidepooling for the first time at this amazing site that might be the smallest of Oregon’s Marine Reserves, but boasts a plethora of activities for the whole family. Housed just north of Newport on the central Oregon coast, Otter Rock Marine Reserve is adjacent Devil’s Punchbowl State Park.

While extremely popular for tidepooling recreation, visitors should be aware that increasing pressures and tourism on this site are having impacts on both the tidepool and more seasonal marine life. Being conscious of where you step in the tidepools and keeping your distance from cliff-sides where seabirds nest and rocky haul-outs for baby seals is important to keeping this place accessible and enjoybable for future generations!

Video: Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve

Oregon’s largest Marine Reserve, just south of Yachats and north of Florence, Cape Perpetua is a marvel from the temperate old growth rainforests shoreside to it’s east to the extensive rocky intertidal along the shoreline. A favorite for a variety of variety of activities and individual interests due to the high focus of the US Forest Service in managing the adjacent forests as recreational areas.

Home to the endangered Marbled Murrelet, Pacific Lamprey and a half dozen streams and rivers where Coho, Steelhead and Chinook Salmon reproduce, Cape Perpetua is a place to be awestruck by the power of land-sea connectivity. Over a dozen state and federal agencies and non-profits are active in the stewardship of this special place, learn more about the community of people and opportunities here through the Cape Perpetua Collaborative.

Video: Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve

The first to be nominated and designated as a marine reserve and one of the most splendid places on Earth, Redfish Rocks is a magical place to visit. Just south of Port Orford, you’ll immediately recognize that your in another bioregion as you overlook this Marine Reserve from Battle Rock State Park to its north. The water is often a different color than areas north of here, the shoreline is rugged, rocky and these features extend underwater creating splendid habitats for a rich diversity of species. Surfing, hiking, tidepooling, kayaking, whale watching…this place has it all and you can often have it all to yourself being a bit out of the way for major metro areas to spoil with crowds.

Want to get more involved in learning about this special place? There’s a rad new Oregon State University Field Station where students and research partners can stay for their field studies and work and some great tour opportunities to explore the ocean, surrounding nearshore and islands. Check in with the Redfish Rocks Community Team to learn more about all the happening from sustainable seafood cooperatives to outreach and education opportunities with the marine reserve.