Even if you’ve never stepped foot on the wide open, serene shores of Cannon Beach, you’re likely familiar with its most famous landmark, Haystack Rock. After all, it photobombs just about every photo taken on this beach — and its mug shot has been spread all throughout the world, as it is the most photographed landmark in the entire state (but more on that later!).
This towering giant of a rock attracts visitors from all over and continues to impress those lucky enough to call Cannon Beach their hometown. It’s time to get to know this monumental rock formation a bit better! Here are a handful of fun and interesting facts about Haystack Rock you may not know, from its history to the material it’s made of, and a few fun stories in between.
There is More Than One Haystack Rock
It’s a bit confusing, but there are actually other impressive rocks lining the coast that have the same name as the one we know and love in Cannon Beach. There’s a smaller one in Bandon and a quite sizeable one in Pacific City, which are both included on our list of The 14 Best Beach Towns to Visit Along the Oregon Coast. Take a scenic drive along the coast to visit each of the three Haystack Rocks, taking in breathtaking sights and attractions along the way.
It’s 137 Feet Higher Than the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Sure, we all know Haystack Rock is tall, but did you know it’s a whopping 137 feel taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa?! The rock measures 235 feet tall at its highest point, and is sometimes claimed to be the third-tallest intertidal structure in the world — although there is no legitimate reference to support this claim. But measuring approximately 22 stories tall, we can all agree that Haystack Rock is pretty tall.
It is Home to the Largest Tufted Puffin Colony in the State
If you’ve visited Cannon Beach between early spring to mid-summer, you’ve likely been amongst other visitors of the feathered variety. Cannon Beach has the largest Tufted Puffin colony in the state. The puffins arrive as early as April, but July is often the best time to catch a glimpse of them atop Haystack Rock, where they build their nests. Haystack Awareness volunteers are often situated at the base of the rock during the high season to help you spot these famous birds. And the town is so passionate about preserving the puffins that fireworks have not been allowed in the area for several decades.
It Was Formed by Lava Flows Millions of Years Ago
Haystack Rock was formed by lava flows emanating from the Blue Mountains and the Columbia Basin an estimated 15-16 million years ago. These lava flows created many of the natural features along the coast, including Tillamook Head, Arch Cape and Saddle Mountain. And believe it or not, Haystack Rock was originally connected to the coastline but has since separated after years of erosion. This same process happened to the adjacent formations just south of the rock called “The Needles.”
Haystack Rock Makes an Appearance in The Goonies
Haystack Rock is famous all across the world — and even makes an appearance on the 1985 classic, The Goonies. If you haven’t seen it, check out the intro scene and keep an eye out for Cannon Beach and its most beloved landmark in full display. Cannon Beach also makes an appearance in Twilight, Hysterical, Point Break and Kindergarten Cop!
It is One of the Most Photographed Landmarks in Oregon
Not only is Haystack Rock one of the most prominent landmarks in the state of Oregon — it’s also one of the most photographed. And it’s easy to see why! Whether it’s a gloomy, rainy day or a bright, sunny one, this enormous basalt rock is quite the sight to behold. If you’d like to bring the beauty of Haystack Rock into your home, check out the work of local photographer Thomas Robinson of Cannon Beach Photo, who has captured more than 2,000 images of Cannon Beach, including a collection of stunning Haystack Rock photos.
Haystack Rock is Both a Protected Wildlife Refuge and a Marine Garden
Be careful — there are quite a few rules surrounding Haystack Rock put in place to protect and preserve this precious natural landmark. The rock is both a protected wildlife refuge and a marine garden. In 1968, it was declared a wildlife refuge by the state, which made it off limits to anyone without a permit, and in 1976, it became a wildlife refuge along with 1,853 rocks, reefs, islands and two headland areas along 320 miles of the coast. Collecting plants or animals around Haystack Rock is strictly prohibited and climbing above the mean high tide level (marked by the barnacle line) is not allowed.
Its Tide Pools Are Home to a Variety of Sea Creatures
Exploring the area surrounding the rock is like taking a crash course in marine biology. The surrounding tide pools are home to a variety of sea creatures, such as crabs, starfish, sea slugs, sea anemone, chitons, limpets and more. But you can only see them at low tide! And make sure you’re not trapped once the tide rolls in — let’s just say the United States Coast Guard is accustomed to rescues around the rock.
It Is Made of Basalt
Believe it or not, Haystack Rock is not made of hay. It is made of basalt, a dark gray fine-grained igneous rock from a lava flow. The material consists of basic plagioclase, augite and usually magnetite, a rock mineral. Basalt is an extremely heavy and dense volcanic rock that makes up most of the world’s oceanic crust.
A Ledge Was Blasted Off to Keep People From Climbing Haystack Rock
In order to discourage said climbing, the state hired a pyrotechnics professor from Oregon State University to blast a ledge off the rock using dynamite in October 1968. This was intended to make a climb less feasible or tempting for visitors. You can learn more about this historic blast — and how it didn’t quite go according to plan — here.
What fun facts about Haystack Rock do you have to share? Let us know in the comments below!
And learn more about the town of Cannon Beach as a whole in our post, 12 Fun + Interesting Facts About Cannon Beach, Oregon.