Keiko, the killer whale, placed the Oregon Coast Aquarium on the map coming here to live, in a purpose-built tank, as part of the plan to rehabilitate and return him to the wild. Since Keiko died (December 12, 2003 in Taknes Bay, Norway) there will be no definitive answers as to the success of the program. But he’s still one of two topics of conversation people working at the aquarium encounter on a regular basis. Response to the second common topic is "No, there aren’t any great white sharks here." The sea life, fish, mammal, or avian, found here is representative, for the most part, of what is found along Oregon’s coast.
The Aquarium is actually a series of linked buildings and exhibit areas set in a nicely landscaped area. With viewing overlooks of Newport Bay local nature is also incorporated, in a less predictable way -- what might be in the bay is changeable on any given day. On site facilities include a cafe and gift shop.
--"Passages of the Deep." The "passages," suspended mid-way into the depths, provide a 360-degree view with windows in the floor. The Species Guide lists everything swimming in this tank, each entry linked to more information. Oregon waters contain only about 15 of the world’s 450 shark species and only about a third are represented in the exhibit which you can preview and explore with this online Clickable Exhibit and the Shark Cams. The exhibit works it way from near shore out, progressing to the ocean deeps.
This exhibit can be unnerving for some people, but is housed separately so you can skip it. I’ll admit to being spooked by leaning backwards to watch one swim over me only to notice a dark eye gliding by with only mere inches of glass between it and my face.
If you’re brave enough (with proper certification) volunteer to do interpretive dives (or clean the tanks!) with the sharks.
--"At the Jetty." Features coho salmon and white sturgeon in a 35,000-gallon habitat re-creation.
--"Enchanted Seas." Awww, seahorse babies are so cute -- and tiny. Last time I was here there were dozens of them and births are common. This area’s exhibits focus on some of the more unusual and threatened sea creatures and features a number of Seahorse varieties. Potbelly seahorses really do have a little potbelly, and leafy dragons look like they have leafed branches sprouting from their bodies.
Outside Exhibit Areas:
--A walk-through outdoor seabird aviary. Most notable: tufted puffins.
--Harbor seals and sea lions
--Sea otters, which haven’t been extant in Oregon waters since the early 1900s.
(All sea mammals are rescued animals deemed not releasable.)
Map of Newport with the Aquarium shown as #19.
Open: 9am-6pm, summer; 10am-5pm, winter, closed Christmas.
Contact: 541-867-FISH (recording), (fax) 541-867-6846