Designated as the first National Wildlife Refuge west of the Mississippi River, Three Arch Rocks Refuge and Wilderness lies half a mile offshore of the community of Oceanside. One of the Oregon coast's best-known landmarks, the Wilderness consists of three large and six smaller rocks totaling 15 acres of unsurveyed lands above the line of mean high water. This is one of the smallest designated Wilderness Areas in the country. The rocks provide habitat for Oregon's largest breeding colony of tufted puffins. These flamboyant birds with their large bright orange beaks and long yellow head tufts are one of the most recognizable seabirds on the Oregon coast. Other seabird species breeding on this refuge include fork-tailed storm-petrel, Brandt's, cormorant and pigeon guillemot. The refuge also supports one of the largest breeding colonies of common murre south of Alaska and is the only pupping site on the north Oregon coast for the Steller sea lion. Three Arch Rocks NWR can best be viewed from the mainland at Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge and from the town of Oceanside. Both Cape Meares and Oceanside are located on the Three Capes Scenic Route west of Tillamook. To prevent disturbance to extremely sensitive seabirds and marine mammals, Three Arch Rocks is closed to public entry year-round, and waters within 500 feet of the refuge are closed to all watercraft from May 1 through September 15.
Closed Wilderness Area
Only a few wilderness areas are closed to access and use by the general public. Most of these closed areas are managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The core mission of the Service's National Wildlife Refuge System is conservation of native fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats. The Three Arch Rocks Wilderness, part of the Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge, is closed to visitation to protect wildlife and other natural, cultural, and/or other resources consistent with the conservation purpose(s) of the refuge. Wilderness designation provides an additional level of protection for the wilderness portion of this refuge, but does not open the area to public access or use.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.