Uncovering Coastal Gems

March 17, 2017 (Updated March 21, 2017)

If you really want to know a place well, a place like the Oregon Coast, it’s best to do your homework.

A Pacific Northwest author’s new book will teach you about the natural beauty and history of our vast coastal region. It’s called “The Northwest Coastal Explorer,” and author Robert Steelquist says it’s not what he finds that brings him back to the Oregon Coast, but what he might find. Take the many tidepools near the “Three Graces,” the towering sandstone seastacks at Tillamook Bay.


“Well, it’s always surprising what you will find,” noted the longtime naturalist and outdoor writer. “It’s pretty sheltered in here but this place can show us a lot of things that are characteristic of tidepools everywhere.”

He said there were more than 40 different seaweeds growing in the small corner of Tillamook Bay, like angel wing kelp, nori and teriyaki seaweeds.

“So, we have surf grass here!” Steelquist says. “It is closely related to eel grass that prefers the muddier substrate in the estuary. The is very important habitat because lots of things can hide in it.”

One thing Robert cannot hide is the deep pride he has for the Pacific Coast. You can see, read and learn more about it in his colorful book, “The Northwest Coastal Explorer,”  a natural history guide to the places, plants and animals of the Oregon Coast.

Steelquist said his new book was a project that prodded and pulled on him for years. “I was pretty much running up and down this coastline, from California to Vancouver Island, for 14 months with cameras just so I could illustrate the ideas that I wrote about. The weather was not always very kind to me either. It really forced me to recognize the importance of rain to the coast because that’s what I was able to capture most of the time.”

Steelquist has dug deep to show off the Oregon Coast — not just through stunning photos, but wildlife stories that you can discover at headlands like Cape Lookout State Park.

“I like Cape Lookout; in fact, it’s my favorite of the Oregon Coast capes because it just sticks out so far (more than two miles) and you get a long look to the beach to the south and a nice long look to the north,” Steelquist said. “Often the grey whales are migrating so close and suddenly they hit a wall and pick their way out and around the cape so  you can stand from the heights and look down and see them underwater. It’s really inspirational to me to be able to see an ocean creature like grey whales that way.

Further to the south, the Oregon Dunes is something special for Steelquist too.

“It is almost otherworldly in its appearance!” he said. “There aren’t too many places in the Northwest where you get these golds and varied hues of tan. You also have beautiful forms in the dunes that are constantly forming and constantly eroding. I like to think of the dunes as a sea floor that has moved inland.”

Erosion is fact of life in the natural coastal world, a vivid reminder of that fact is on display right now at Rockaway Beach, where you can see and touch the shipwrecked remains of the 215-foot-long Emily G. Reed.

Don Best, a lifelong local, said an onslaught of winter time storms eroded the sandy blanket that usually covers the 1908 shipwreck. He also said that the shipwreck has never been exposed for such a long time; now going on for six weeks.

He also recalled his own childhood shipwreck adventure. Best was 10 years old when he first crawled underneath the Emily Reed. “I said to myself, ‘Nobody has seen this side of the ship since 1908.’ Somebody asked, ‘did your mother know you had done that?’ I said, ‘No,’ and she still doesn’t know that I did that.”

Steelquist says the Oregon Coast is always changing and never twice the same — and that is part of its appeal: “We’re fortunate to live in a place where we are constantly surrounded by common things that are really extraordinary. I like to praise the common things because that’s who we live among — the plants and animals — and they tell us so much about the world around us.”

About The

Grant McOmie
Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.