Cape Falcon Marine Reserve and Marine Protected Area


cape falconPhoto credit: ShoreZone


Just the Facts

Location: The  Cape Falcon Marine Reserve is Oregon’s northern most site, situated adjacent and north of the popular Oswald West State Park. The second largest in Oregon’s Marine Reserve network, the reserve includes 12.4 square miles of ocean habitat and the two complementary Marine Protected Areas include an additional 7.6 square miles.

Access points: Oswald West State Park (Short Sands beach) is a great recreational beach that sits shoreside of the southern portion of this marine reserve. Trails from and around the north portion of Oswald West state park will offer other views of the marine reserve.


Regulations - Harvest restrictions are in effect as of January 1, 2016

2014-2015 monitoring is underway - reports available in 2017

Cape Falcon Map (ODFW), including marine reserve boundaries and harvest restrictions

Cape Falcon Habitats Map

Cape Falcon FAQ

Habitat and Wildlife

Dozens of trails through the adjacent state park provide for dramatic views of the Marine Reserve and Cape’s wildlife. Over 20 seabird colonies with thousands of nesting birds can be found in this area including over 16,000 common murres in addition to black oystercatchers, marbled murrelets and bald eagles. With their sheltering nooks and crannies, the large, rocky reefs and gravel and soft bottom habitats around Cape Falcon are home to a rich array of plants and animals like rockfish and halibut. This Marine Reserve site includes the deepest habitat of all sites, hosting plants and animals that require cold deep water to feed and breed, and helping Oregon’s marine reserve network provide more comprehensive protection for diverse wildlife and habitats.

Why was Cape Falcon selected as a marine reserve and protected area site?
  • Over 5,000 seabirds nest at the Cape Falcon.
  • It is the only site that is influenced by the Columbia River plume, one of the more important ecological processes that affects coastal waters in the PNW—think forage fish!
  • The Marine Reserve has some of the deepest waters of all the reserves in Oregon with depths approaching 80m.
  • It also has some shallow rocky reef habitat which is considered rare in Oregon waters.

Ecological Benefits

The range of ecological benefits expected for this site as originally proposed included:

  • enhanced marine habitat protection
  • increased age structure of resident fish populations
  • prevention of localized depletions and maintenance of food web functions,
  • enhanced persistence and resilience of the nearshore ecosystem
  • increased biodiversity, biomass density as well as recruitment and even yield beyond the boundaries of the reserve

Cool Stuff!


Cape Falcon Marine Reserve Video



Special Features in the Vicinity of Cape Falcon

The coastal and ocean waters around Tillamook head and Cape Falcon, including the rocky reef habitat, productive intertidal habitat, important bird and mammal areas, and deep offshore habitats make these important ecological areas in Oregon's Territorial Sea. This site was designated as one of 31 important ecological areas off Oregon's coast because of its unique physical and biological features representative of high biodiversity, critical habitat for threatened and endangered species, habitats important for breeding, feeding and shelter, and sensitive and rare habitats.

black and yellow rockfish
gopher rockfish


common murre
Left photo: Black and yellow rockfish. Photo credit: David and Dori Dirig. Upper right photo: Gopher rockfish. Photo credit: Gayle van Leer. Middle right photo: Common murre. Photo credit: Ron LeValley.


The Oregon Marine Reserves Partnership is a fiscally sponsored project of The Ocean Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.