Oregon Coast Aquarium

The Oregon Coast Aquarium is an aquarium in Newport in the U.S. state of Oregon. Opened in 1992, the facility sits on 23 acres (9.3 ha) along Yaquina Bay near the Pacific Ocean. The aquarium was home to Keiko, the orca who starred in the movie Free Willy, from January 7, 1996 until September 9, 1998, when he was shipped to Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland. USA Today considers the Oregon Coast Aquarium world-class[2] and Coastal Living magazine ranks it among the top ten aquariums in North America.[3]

Oregon Coast Aquarium
Oregon Coast Aquarium logo.jpg
Oregon Coast Aquarium entrance.JPG
Main building at the aquarium
Date openedMay 23, 1992
LocationNewport, Oregon
Coordinates44°37′04″N 124°02′50″W / 44.61784°N 124.04709°W / 44.61784; -124.04709Coordinates: 44°37′04″N 124°02′50″W / 44.61784°N 124.04709°W / 44.61784; -124.04709
Land area23 acres (9.3 ha)
Annual visitors450,000 (2012)


Newport business leaders proposed building an aquarium beginning in the early 1980s.[4] They proposed a $7 million facility in 1982 as a way to boost the local economy.[4] Two years later they incorporated as a non-profit, and increased fundraising efforts in 1987, collecting $11 million by 1991.[4] Plans to turn 23 acres (9.3 ha) along Yaquina Bay in Newport into a "world class" aquarium were finalized in 1990.[5] The Aquarium was designed by SRG Architects, Portland: BIOS:Inc, of Seattle, and Walker/Macy Landscape Architects, Portland, Oregon.

Keiko at the aquarium in 1998

After early bids were rejected by the aquarium's board of directors,[6] Mountain States Construction was selected to build the first phase for about $12 million in August 1990.[5] Plans for the first phase included construction of a 40,000-square-foot (3,700 m2) building and four acres of outdoor exhibits, with completion expected in spring 1992.[5] Construction began in August 1990 on phase one, with two other phases expected to start three years and eight years later.[7]

On May 23, 1992, the Oregon Coast Aquarium opened with about 5,500 visitors the first day.[8] Those in attendance on the first day included Senator Mark O. Hatfield, Governor Barbara Roberts, and Congressmen Mike Kopetski and Les AuCoin.[8] The opening theme of the aquarium was following the path of a raindrop from the Oregon Coast Range all the way to the Pacific Ocean.[9][10]

On January 7, 1996, Keiko the orca whale arrived on a United Parcel Service C-130 cargo plane, with freight expenses donated by the company.[11] This move from Reino Aventura, an amusement park in Mexico City, came after fund raising by environmentalists and school children to build a $7.8 million habitat for the movie star in Oregon.[11][12] Keiko was moved to Iceland in 1998 in an attempt to return him to the wild.[13] For 2012, the aquarium had 450,000 visitors and earned $850,000 on about $7.3 million in revenues.[14]


The Oregon Coast Aquarium's collection focuses on the flora and fauna native to the Oregon Coast. The aquarium is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.[15]

Main buildingEdit

Exhibits in the main building include four permanent displays: Sandy Shores, Rocky Shores, Coastal Waters, and a changing exhibit area. The first features fish and invertebrates that live either close to shore or in bays such as Yaquina Bay. Progressing, the aquarium displays feature animals further offshore ending in a kelp forest and sea jelly exhibit. Flanking the permanent displays are the changing exhibits.

There are also exhibits focusing on small marine life in the area including jellyfish, and a tidepool exhibit in which visitors may touch sea stars and sea anemones.[16]

Temporary exhibits have included "Turtles," "Swampland," Claws that featured crustaceans, and Oddwater, which featured unusual sea creatures such as the green-blooded cuttlefish and the jet-powered chambered nautilus.

Passages of the DeepEdit

The acrylic tunnel

The largest exhibit is "Passages of the Deep", in Keiko's former tank, it features walk-through acrylic tubes surrounded by deep water marine animals such as sharks, rays, and rockfish.[17]

Passages of the Deep was created in Keiko's former home, and has three sections. Orford Reef contains mostly rockfish and other smaller Pacific-Northwest fish. Halibut Flats contains halibut, ling cod, a small ray, and other large fish, and includes a mock sunken ship. Open Sea is the last section in the tunnel, and holds many species of sharks including seven gill sharks, as well as rays, mackerel, anchovies and salmon.

Seabird AviaryEdit

The aviary at Oregon Coast Aquarium exhibits sea and shore birds. Those on display include the seabirds tufted puffin, common murre, rhinoceros auklet, pigeon guillemot, and the shore bird black oystercatcher. The seabird aviary includes two large pools and rocky cliffs.

Outdoor exhibitsEdit

The Aquarium has the largest outdoor Seabird Aviary in North America, which is home to tufted and horned puffins, black oystercatchers, common murres, rhinoceros auklets and pigeon guillemots. The Aquarium also exhibits two turkey vultures in a separate outdoor area. Outdoor exhibits also showcase marine mammal species native to the Oregon Coast, including sea otters, harbor seals, and sea lions. There is even a coastal cave that houses a giant Pacific octopus. The rocks in the outdoor exhibit are artificial rocks constructed of gunite.[18] The Aquarium is also home to a nature trail that overlooks the Yaquina Bay estuary and features native plants and free-roaming wildlife.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". aza.org. Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  2. ^ Joseph B. Frazier (May 6, 2008). "Oregon's coast is easy and affordable to see by car". USA Today. Retrieved March 9, 2010.
  3. ^ "Top 10 Aquariums". Coastal Living. Retrieved March 9, 2010.
  4. ^ a b c Welch, Bob (March 17, 1991). "Newport prepares to enter the ... Age of Aquarium". The Register-Guard. Guard Publishing. p. F1. Retrieved March 2, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c Bacon, Larry (August 7, 1990). "Washington firm wins aquarium job". The Register-Guard. Guard Publishing. p. 2B. Retrieved March 2, 2010.
  6. ^ Bacon, Larry (April 19, 1990). "Bids to build Newport aquarium rejected as 'irregular'". The Register-Guard. Guard Publishing. p. C1. Archived from the original on July 14, 2012. Retrieved March 2, 2010.
  7. ^ "Construction begins". The Bulletin. Western Communications, Inc. August 8, 1990. p. B6. Retrieved March 2, 2010.
  8. ^ a b "Visitors call aquarium a great catch for coast". The Register-Guard. Guard Publishing. Associated Press. May 24, 1992. p. 1A. Retrieved March 2, 2010.
  9. ^ Sefton, Nancy (May 31, 1992). "New Oregon Coast Aquarium Makes A Big Splash In Newport". The Seattle Times. The Seattle Times Company. Retrieved March 2, 2010.
  10. ^ "Travel Advisory; Aquariums, South and West". The New York Times. April 26, 1992. p. 53. Retrieved March 2, 2010.
  11. ^ a b Preston, Julia (January 8, 1996). "Willy Is Freed! Well, Moved, Anyway". The New York Times. p. 15. Retrieved March 2, 2010.
  12. ^ Stacy, Mitch; Kennedy, Kelli (February 27, 2010). "Shows to go on at SeaWorld, king of orca business". Associated Press. Retrieved March 2, 2010.
  13. ^ "Oregon Coast Aquarium eyes another orca project". Portland Business Journal. Advance Publications. March 4, 2002. Retrieved March 2, 2010.
  14. ^ Kish, Matthew (March 1, 2013). "Oregon Coast Aquarium's finances no longer underwater". Portland Business Journal. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  15. ^ Muldoon, Katy (July 20, 2010). "Zoo and aquarium inspectors scrutinize Oregon attractions". The Oregonian. Retrieved December 20, 2010.
  16. ^ "Exhibits, Oregon Coast Aquarium Website". Oregon Coast Aquarium. Retrieved August 8, 2006.
  17. ^ "Passages of the Deep, Oregon Coast Aquarium Website". Oregon Coast Aquarium. Retrieved August 8, 2006.
  18. ^ Bacon, Larry (December 28, 1991). "Aquarium making waves in Newport". The Register-Guard. Guard Publishing. p. C1. Retrieved March 2, 2010.

External linksEdit