Rocky Shores

The Oregon coast is famous for its rocky shores. Our uniquely beautiful coastline is visited by millions of people each year and provides habitats to countless species of animals and plants. Twice a day at high tide, surging waves send cold seawater crashing onto the rocky cliffs and beaches to collect in pools in the rocks. At low tide, the rocks might steam dry in the sun but the pools remain, havens for a variety of organisms. In order to survive in this rocky intertidal zone, plants and animals must be adapted to survive both the cold water and the hot sun. While some animals keep cool and wet in the tide pools, other trap moisture in watertight shells or crawl into the damp shade under rocks or beneath the broken leaves of bull kelp.

As if exposure to water, wind, sun and waves weren’t enough, rocky intertidal life must cope with predators of all description – from seabirds to forest animals such as raccoons, skunks and otters. To deal with these challenges, many of these marine animals are covered in hard shells, have elaborate camouflage or are armed with stinging cells called nematocysts. When touring through this gallery, see how many of these defensive adaptations you can spot!

Young Aquarium visitors experience the ocean at their fingertips in our Touch Pool. The centerpiece of the Rocky Shores Gallery is our touch-pool. Staffed by volunteers, this exhibit lets visitors gently interact with tide pool residents like sea stars, gumboot chitons and anemones. Other gallery highlights include a tide pool cut-away raked by waves and a deep pool in which a visitor-operated video camera has been mounted for close-up investigation. The Rocky Shores Gallery holds a total of 15 exhibits, including habitats for the fearsome-looking (but gentle) Wolf Eel, brightly-colored rockfish and a wide range of sea stars, limpets and other invertebrates.