Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Site Image

Oregon's Coastal Zone
Extent of the Coastal Zone

Map of the Oregon Coastal Zone and Territorial SeaOregon’s federally approved Coastal Zone encompasses almost all watersheds that drain to the Pacific Ocean.
It extends from the Washington border on the north to the California border on the south, seaward to the extent of state jurisdiction as recognized by federal law (the Territorial Sea, which extends three nautical miles offshore), and inland to the crest of the coastal mountain range except to the downstream end of Puget Island on the Columbia River, to Scottsburg on the Umpqua River, and to Agness on the Rogue River. 

To view an interactive map of the Oregon Coastal Zone, click here.  
This watershed-based coastal zone was first articulated in 1971 by the Oregon Legislature and again in 1973 when it established the Oregon Coastal Conservation and Development Commission, the report and recommendations of which form the backbone of the four Coastal Statewide Planning Goals. Within this zone, the Oregon Coastal Management Program applies to the land and water areas, except on lands owned by the federal government or are held in trust under Indian tribal jurisdiction.

Geography and Climate
The upland or "dry-land" portion of the coastal zone totals about 5 million acres [7,800 sq. mi.]. The coastal uplands enjoy a mild marine climate that is ideal for growing lush forests.
The area is set off from the eastern valleys of the state by the Coast Range mountains. Winters are cool and rainy; summers are cool and less rainy. Average winter temperatures range from 41 to 47 degrees F. Average July temperatures range from 57 to 71 degrees F. Extreme variations are rare; only occasionally do winter storms bring freezing temperatures and high winds, while fog up to about the 500 foot elevation moderates the summer temperatures.
Of great significance is the annual rainfall, which ranges from 50 to 60 inches along the immediate coastline upwards to 120 inches along the eastern boundary [which is the mountain crest]. The runoff into the wetlands, constantly altering the shape and extent of the bodies. Because of the high rainfall, the coastal profile is steep and has a great potential for erosion.

Population and Demographics
The coastal zone is sparsely populated, being home to about 225,000 Oregonians – only about 6.5 percent of the state's total population. By comparison, more people reside in Marion County alone, in the mid Willamette Valley.
Oregon’s coastal zone encompasses about 7,800 square miles of land area. The overall population density in the coastal zone is therefore quite low; about 29 persons per square mile. Compare this to Marion County’s density of 230 per square mile or Multnomah County with 1391 persons per square mile.
Due largely to topographical constraints and a very limited network of arterial roadways, a large majority of coastal residents live very near the coastline or along narrow coastal river valleys.
As a whole, population and economic growth on the Oregon Coast have lagged behind the balance of the state. Lincoln, coastal Lane and Curry counties are notable exceptions, where the influx of retirees has compensated for the loss of higher paying jobs and the attending out-migration of young adults who leave the area to find education and employment opportunities. As a result, the coastal population is "graying" with increasing numbers occupying the middle and older age groups.
For more information on coastal population and demographics, try the following links:

Historically, the coastal economy has relied on resource-based jobs such as fishing, farming, and logging. Opportunities in these areas generally have been declining in recent years, leading to a decrease in net earnings.
There are many factors behind this decline, such as man-made problems and natural occurrences affecting fish and the reduction of timber cut quotas and market influences.
However, there is a good deal of variation along the coast. For example, Tillamook County continues to have a strong dairy industry while agriculture has diminished in other areas. The current forecast is that the Tillamook Forest will soon be available for commercial timber harvest after years of re-growth from the large Tillamook Burn in the early part of the 20th century.
By contrast, coast wide fishing and timber harvests have been on a decline.
One area of growth is tourism. While it is difficult to measure the increase because of the diverse aspects of tourism, in most cases visitation is on the increase at state and county parks and motels/hotels. The advent of casinos on the coast has also increased visitation, especially in the Lincoln City Highway 101 – Highway 18 corridor.
The economic viability of coastal communities has been and continues to be based on their surrounding natural resources. There has been a shift, though, from extraction of those resources to appreciation of them where they are. Coastal resources are limited and fragile. Growth along the coast needs to be located away from natural resource and hazard areas. The challenge is significant to make wise use of resources to ensure that development of the coast results in livable communities and a sustained economy.
For more information on coastal economics, try the following links:

Oregon's 400 miles of beaches and dunes are all open to the public, offering endless vacation possibilities. Accommodations range from elegant resorts, family-friendly hotels, cozy bed and breakfasts, to full service and primitive campgrounds.
Mild temperatures, dramatic scenery and a wide range of recreational activities – including a world class system of public parks – make this one of the state's most popular regions. In addition to the excellent park system, visitors also enjoy museums, galleries, crafts, aquariums, special events, annual celebrations, fantastic sunsets, fresh seafood, international cuisine, micro breweries and great entertainment.
As Oregon's economy continues to diversify, tourism plays a vital role in creating new job opportunities and strengthening local and regional economies. The Oregon coast is a main attraction for visitors to the state. In 1996, an estimated $4.5 billion was generated in Oregon by visitor expenditures, which represents a 36 percent increase since 1991. This significant growth in Oregon's visitor industry confirms that tourism is a key component of the state's economy. In addition to direct impacts, employment and revenue in support sectors such as business services, utilities and personal services are significant. In 1995, the total of direct and indirect sales was approximately $8.8 billion.
For more information about touring the coast, you may also want to visit some of the local or regional website links below.

The Oregon coast offers a wide variety and abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities. This wealth of opportunities contributes significantly to the quality of life of Oregon residents and forms the basis for the important economic contributions of tourism.
The Oregon coast is a diverse landscape contained within a relatively narrow zone. Beaches and headlands, forested hills, placid estuaries and rushing mountain streams provide the setting for a concentration of state, federal, city and county recreation areas, which comprise a significant portion of the Oregon coastline. This network of public parks and open space ensures ample opportunity for both physical and visual access to the ocean shore, as well as other coastal water bodies and landscape features such as the Oregon Dunes.
The extensive network of state and federal parks and open space along coastal shores play a major role in implementing several important objectives of the Oregon Coastal Management Program, including providing access to coastal waters, maintaining water quality, protecting significant wildlife habitat and sensitive plant communities, and preserving outstanding landscape features. From north to south, major parks and recreation areas include the following:

Fort Clatsop Memorial Lewis and Clark interpretive features; natural, historical and cultural displays and events; estuary
Fort Sevens State Park Military fort interpretive features; camping; beaches
Cape Lookout State Park Headland; old growth forest; hiking; sandy beaches
Ecola State Park Scenic views; wildlife; surfing; sandy beaches
Oswald West State Park Viewpoints, wind surfing, sandy beaches
Beverly Beach State Park Camping, sandy beaches, Newport attractions
Alsea Bay Interpretive Center Natural, historic and cultural displays featuring historic bridge and Alsea Bay; access to bay beach and Waldport main street.
Beachside State Park Popular oceanfront camping experience
Smelt Sands Wayside Unique hiking trail along rocky shore
Cape Perpetua U.S. Forest Service recreation area; hiking; old growth forest; scenic viewpoints; rocky shore
Heceta Head Historic lighthouse; bed and breakfast; rocky shore
Oregon Dunes NRA National Recreation Area extends along 50 miles of ocean shore, from Florence to Coos Bay; worlds highest coastal dune complex.
Umpqua Lighthouse Historic lighthouse; scenic views; camping; secluded coastal lake
Cape Arago Parks Three of the most spectacular coastal state parks, including Sunset Bay, Shore Acres and Cape Arago, featuring popular swimming beach, botanical gardens and marine wildlife sanctuary.
Bullards Beach Camping [including popular yurts]; historic lighthouse; boating; fishing; ocean and bay access
Cape Blanco Historic lighthouse; camping; historic homestead; scenic views.
Port Orford Heads Scenic views; whale watching; Coast Guard museum
Samuel Boardman Complex of state parks along 12 miles of stunning coastline; scenic views; hiking; wildlife watching.
Harris Beach Camping; wildlife watching; Oregon Islands National Wildlife Sanctuary.

For more information about the coast, you may also want to visit some of the local or regional website links below.

A significant percentage of the coastal land base from the top of the Coast Range west to the ocean is composed of public and private commercial forest land.
Commercial forest land is also managed by the Oregon Department of Forestry, the state agency that administers the Oregon Forest Practices Act. From an economic point, the forest and activities related to it has been the reason for many towns historic settlement and continued economic base and "way of life’ through the years. The forest is also the source of abundant natural resources such as fish habitat and resources, plant materials, and more recently, mushroom gathering.

Tribal Governments
There are three federally recognized tribal nations with lands in the Oregon Coastal Zone. Each have a vested interest in the management of Oregon’s coastal and ocean resources.
Under the Coastal Management Program, there are various links between DLCD and these sovereign tribal nations. The Oregon Legislature created a seat for coastal tribal governments on the Ocean Policy Advisory Council. Tribal governments can also participate as interested parties in permit reviews for coastal projects or in coastal policy development initiatives.
DLCD also coordinates with tribal governments via the department’s responsibilities to review various federal actions occurring in or affecting the coastal zone. Federal agencies are obligated by the federal consistency provisions of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act to ensure that agency actions and approvals are consistent with the OCMP. As examples, certain actions and approvals of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs – such as taking lands into trust status on behalf of tribal governments – can be subject to federal consistency review by DLCD.
DLCD’s Coastal program staff also participate in statewide efforts to enhance state agency-tribal relations. For a more complete discussion, go the department’s Government-to-Government webpage.