Ocean Shore State Recreation Area

Park History

Two pieces of landmark legislation preserve Oregon's beaches for public use. Governor Oswald West championed use of the shore as a public highway, signing legislation on Feb. 13, 1913, proclaiming:

“The shore of the Pacific Ocean, between ordinary high tide and extreme low tide, and from the Columbia River on the north to the Oregon and California State line on the south, is hereby declared a public highway and shall forever remain open as such to the public.”

In 1947, after a surge of construction created inland roads and highways, the legislature changed the "public highway" designation to a "recreation area."

House Bill 1601 was introduced to the legislature in 1967 after challenges threatened the public's access to the dry sand portion of the beach. The legislation became known as the "Beach Bill" and then Governor Tom McCall strongly supported its passage. The bill was contentious, pitting the property rights of landowners against the public's rights to access and enjoy the beach. The bill passed, which gave the public a recreation easement to use the dry sand up to the vegetation line.

The Beach Bill also directed the ocean shore be administered as a state recreation area. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has the responsibility to protect and preserve the ocean shore's recreation, scenic and natural resources.

Protecting Oregon Beaches web exhibit

The Beach Bill -- Oregon Public Broadcasting video


Ocean Shore State Recreation Area FAQ

General

I found some junk/trash/debris on the beach. What should I do with it?

Visit our tsunami/marine debris page to learn about beach debris on Oregon's shoreline and how you can help out.
 

What is the typical weather on Oregon’s beaches?

There’s nothing typical about Oregon coast weather. Assume it might be rainy, cold and windy. You’ll be prepared (dress in layers), but might also be pleasantly surprised. Here’s a good synopsis about what you can expect. Be sure to check the weather and tide forecasts before you head out (but remember things can change quickly).
 

Where can I find information about public beach access points along the Oregon coast?

Check out the Oregon Coastal Access Inventory. Be sure to note the type of access-- not all lead to a beach. The inventory also includes boat and visual access (i.e., viewing areas) points.

I’ve heard about the Oregon Coast Trail. What is it?

The 382-mile Oregon Coast Trail takes hikers across sandy beaches, forest-shaded corridors and over majestic headlands. Our Oregon Coast Trail page has maps of the entire trail.

I’ve seen the tsunami evacuation signs on the coast. What can I do to be better prepared?

While we can’t prevent a tsunami, we can prepare for one. The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) hosts the Oregon Tsunami Clearinghouse with tons of information, including evacuation maps and apps.

I saw some strange (gelatinous, foamy, alien-like) stuff washed up on the beach on my last visit. What was it??

Oregon Sea Grant has a great publication on the wrack line, check it out to figure out what that stuff you find along the beach might be!

I’ve heard about “dead zones” off the coast and acid in the ocean. What’s the deal?
Are there any specially protected areas along the shoreline?

Yes. There are some sections of Oregon’s shoreline that have been designated to provide lasting protection for part or all of the resources within them. Oregon has various types of specially designated areas including Marine Gardens, Research Reserves, Habitat Refuges, Marine Protected Areas, Marine Reserves and National Wildlife Refuges.

Restrictions vary depending on the location. Please consult appropriate rules and regulations for current, complete content. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife manages these areas (with the exception of National Wildlife Refuges) and more information can be found on the Oregon Marine Reserves website.

What kind of fire can I have on the beach?

Small recreational fires that are:

  • 3’X3’ or smaller
  • made of natural, untreated natural wood free of attached metal, nails, glass or plastic objects (e.g., not pallets)
  • started with non-petroleum-based products
  • located in open, dry sand well away (at least 25 ft.) from any vegetation, driftwood, other combustible materials or beach access points
  • not located in dunes or in or near (or downwind of) vegetation, small wood debris or log accumulations
  • not left unattended
  • not allowed to cause damage to facilities or natural resources
  • extinguished completely with water (NOT sand) before users leave the area
  • not in seasonally restricted Western Snowy Plover habitat areas

You may apply for a special use permit for larger fires.

Fires may be temporarily prohibited due to high fire hazard conditions.

Can I use my metal detector on the beach?

Yes. Metal detecting is generally allowed on the beach. Please please read the metal detecting rules before you head to the beach.

Can I sell stuff I find on the beach, distribute pamphlets, promotional materials or place signs on the beach?

No. Oregon’s beaches are a publicly owned recreational resource. Any commercial activity must be pre-authorized via a special use permit or in some cases an ocean shore alteration permit.

I want to see a whale while I’m at the beach. Where (and when) should I go?

Check out our Whale Watching Spoken Here page for information about the Whale Watch Center and other whale watching sites along the coast.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has an informative summary of some of the most commonly seen species off the Oregon Coast.

Where can I get information about beach water quality?

The Oregon Health Authority manages the Oregon Beach Monitoring Program and has lots of information, including beach water quality monitoring FAQs, a "Guide to Water Quality for Oregon Beach Visitors" and information about water quality advisories on their website.

About Camping

Where can I camp on the beach?

Camping on Oregon’s ocean beaches is allowed in many areas, but please be aware of the tides and camp above the high tide line. Note: Overnight parking is not allowed in state park day-use areas or waysides.

Camping is prohibited in the following areas:

  • on the beach adjacent to an Oregon State Park.
  • from the south jetty of the Columbia River to Tillamook Head in Clatsop County.
  • on the beaches of the following communities: Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Rockaway Beach, Lincoln City, Newport, Bandon and Gold Beach. It is your responsibility to know the city boundaries before you camp.
  • in Western Snowy Plover habitat areas. These areas are signed at beach access points.

What's Allowed

Where can I find information about fishing, crabbing and clamming on Oregon’s beaches?

Opportunity abounds! Learn more about crabbing and clamming and fishing including how to obtain a shellfish and/or fishing license from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). Be sure to check the ODA website for information about shellfish safety and the shellfish information hotline (1-800-448-2474) before collecting!

How many shells, agates etc. can I collect from the beach (i.e., can I take home a souvenir)?

Small quantities of driftwood, shells, agates and other non-living natural products may be taken off the ocean shore as a souvenir for non-commercial, personal use. Details may be found in the recreation rules for the ocean shore.

Respect the life here and the precious value it has for all Oregonians: follow proper tidepool etiquette when exploring some of the Ocean Shores’ more sensitive habitats.

Can I pan for gold on the beach?

Yes, recreational prospecting with non-motorized/hand-operated equipment (e.g., a gold pan) is generally allowed on the beach. The rules include restrictions on quantities and types of equipment. Please return the beach to its original condition.

Can I drive on the beach?

In some cases, yes. Oregon’s beaches were originally designated as a “public highway” in 1913 which set the stage for the more well-known “beach bill” which followed years later. While the beach is now a state recreation area, driving is allowed in some places. Official Oregon State Highway Maps can be obtained from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) that depict those areas where driving is allowed.

Only street-legal vehicles may drive on the beach with the exception of areas designated for off-road vehicles.

ATVs are allowed in designated areas only. ATV operator permits are required.

Operators of vehicles may not disturb wildlife or other natural resources or block access, use, or the safe and uninterrupted passage of others on the ocean shore.

Details can be found in Division 21 and Division 24 rules.

Are weddings and other special events allowed on the beach?

Yes. Please see the “Day-Use/Special events” section on this page (below).

Can I light fireworks on the beach?

No. Fireworks, rockets or any kind of explosives are not allowed on the beach. Commercial firework displays and events must be permitted by the Oregon State Fire Marshall and Oregon State Parks.

Animals

Can I take my dog to the beach with me?

Yes! Domestic animals (like dogs and horses) are generally welcome on Oregon’s beaches. However, they must be under direct control (within sight and responsive to commands) and you must remove their waste. If you chose to let them off their leash (they must be on one within state parks), you should have a leash ready in case you’re asked to restrain your pet by a state park employee. Please prevent your animal(s) from harassing wildlife and other visitors to the beach. Check out our "Pets in Parks" brochure for more information.

As you head down to the beach, please check out the access signs as some beaches may require leashes for safety reasons.

Note: There are addtional restrictions on dogs in Western Snowy Plover habitat areas. Check out the following maps to see dog-related rules for the south and north coast plover management areas.

What should I do about the seal pup on the beach?

Harbor seal pups are often found on the beach. Usually, they are not stranded and should not be disturbed. They are resting while their mothers are off looking for food

The Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network (OMMSN), which responds to stranded and injured marine mammals, notes that "adult female seals are shy and a mother is unlikely to rejoin a pup if there is activity nearby. She may only return to suckle her pup at night when people are not around. It is very important not to interfere with this process, and especially not to move a pup from where it is receiving care from its mother. Within 3-4 weeks of birth, harbor seal pups are weaned from maternal care and are left to fend for themselves. While learning to find and catch its own food, a young seal may come ashore frequently to rest. This is often a very challenging stage of life, and not all pups survive. But while it may be tempting to 'take them in,' their best chance for survival is to be left alone on the beach."

If you are concerned about the welfare of a seal pup or any other marine mammal you encounter, report it to the 24-hour Oregon State Police hotline at 800-452-7888. Please describe the situation and location of the animal so the OMMSN can follow up on your concerns.

Check out the OMMSN stranding "do's and don'ts."

What do I do about a sickly or injured looking marine mammal on the beach?

Check out the OMMSN stranding "do's and don'ts."

If you are concerned about the welfare of a marine mammal you encounter, report it to the 24-hour Oregon State Police hotline at 800-452-7888. Please describe the situation and location of the animal so the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network (OMMSN) can follow up on your concerns.

When and where can I go tidepooling?

Check out our Oregon Tidepools website for information about tidepooling, including the answer to this question and much more.

Day use/Special Events

Do we need a special use permit to hold our wedding?

It depends. Call the Coastal Region Office at (541) 563-8500 to discuss your plans and possible permits, fees or insurance requirements. Events on the beach are first-come, first-served. Depending on the event, you may need a special use permit for non-traditional activities. A non-traditional activity is an activity, gathering or use of park properties, ocean shore or other recreational area that is not defined in park area rules and regulations. Events with permits take precedence over non-permitted events.

Some examples of events that require a permit are:

  • organized group gatherings of 50 or more such as weddings, company picnics, tournaments, and contests;
  • an activity that requires a structure and/or decorations such as a stage, event tents, archways, tables/chairs;
  • commercial filming;
  • sales of goods and services by vendors, concessionaires and other businesses;
  • activities that restrict public access.

 


Statewide FAQ

Available via this link