Passages of the Deep

The Aquarium’s Passages of the Deep exhibit allows the visitor to literally immerse themselves in the ocean realm that exists right off the Oregon coast. A series of underwater walkways leads the visitor from the dark, quiet canyons of the Orford Reef, through the sparkling and teeming waters of Halibut Flats, and finally into the vast blue expanse of the Open Sea. As you pass through these three ecosystems, you symbolically move further into the Pacific Ocean, encountering vastly different animals along the way.

Orford Reef

Located just offshore near Point Blanco, Orford Reef is a cluster of submerged haystack rock formations, only the tops of which are visible above water. Beneath the waves, the areas between these rocks form a deep reef of narrow crevasses and swaying forests of bull kelp which can reach lengths up to 100 feet (30 meters.) Far below the kelp forest, the reef provides a natural shelter from the weather and wave action, creating a stable refuge for a variety of species. One of the most predominant fish in the Orford Reef is the Rockfish, of which there are sixty different species in the Pacific Ocean. These predatory fish will often hang suspended in the still waters or hide among the drifting kelp as they stalk their unsuspecting prey.

Halibut Flats

The stormy Oregon coast is often known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific” and here is proof. In Halibut Flats, ocean life finds shelter among the sunken skeleton of a long-forgotten ship. There’s more sunlight in Halibut Flats than there was in the narrow canyons or Orford Reef and the animals are more active. In ecosystems like this one, a tremendous number of interconnected species form a vibrant underwater community. Aside from the sturgeon, lingcod, halibut and flounder that constantly patrol the shipwreck, the sandy ocean floor is a resting ground for skates, a disk-shaped species of fish related to sharks and rays. You may have to look carefully, however, as the skates’ mottled coloring is the perfect camouflage for this region of dappled sunlight.

Open Sea

The longest tunnel in Passages of the Deep also represents the world’s largest environment – the Open Sea. There are no towering kelp forests or narrow rocky channels here… just water as far as the eye can see. Most of the species represented in this exhibit live in the upper strata of water, commonly referred to as the Sunlit Zone. This area is alive with five species of shark, huge bat rays and great schools of anchovy and mackerel. The sharks are particularly popular with Aquarium visitors and all our species are native to Oregon coastal waters, including our largest specimen, the Broadnose Sevengill Shark

Download Animal Identification Guides for these exhibits: Click here.

Other Features in Passages of the Deep

Gift Shop and Events:

As you exit Passages of the Deep, be sure to check out any activities that may be in progress in our Gleason Events Room or browse the merchandise in the Shark Zone Gift Shop.

Dive Presentations:


Passages of the Deep Videos

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