Located in Seaside, Oregon, the Seaside Aquarium is one of the longest-operating aquariums on the American West Coast, featuring third- and fourth-generation harbor seals, a touch pool for children, and exhibits on the native aquatic wildlife of the Pacific Northwest. Before it was home to the Seaside Aquarium, the current aquarium building was constructed as an indoor public bath and swimming pool natatorium facility called the Seaside Baths Natatorium in 1924.
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After the natatorium’s closing in the early 1930s due to the economic turmoil of the Great Depression, the building was temporarily used as a salmon-rearing facility and a wrestling match venue. In 1937, it was extensively renovated and reopened to the public as the Seaside Aquarium, making it one of the earliest aquarium facilities to open in the United States. An apartment facility named the Sea Water Apartments opened above the aquarium the following year, though the facility is now defunct and vacant.
Permanent Exhibits and Animals
Today, the Seaside Aquarium is still a privately-owned facility, managed by descendants of its original founders. The aquarium still uses the original pipe system installed as part of the historic natatorium facility to fill and power all its exhibit tanks. As an educational outreach facility and wildlife refuge, the aquarium participates in the Marine Mammal Stranding program and is partnered with local organizations such as the Seaside Beach Discovery Program, the Haystack Rock Awareness Program, and the Wildlife Center of the North Coast.
More than 100 varieties of marine life are housed at the aquarium, with a focus on sea life native to the Pacific Northwest. As the first national program for breeding harbor seals in captivity, the aquarium is home to a number of third- and fourth-generation offspring seals, which may be fed by visitors during up-close experiences. The aquarium is currently home to 11 seals, including Greta, born in 1996, and Casey, born in 2014.
All exhibits at the aquarium are designed to change with natural seasons and offer up-close experiences with a number of marine animals, including crabs, octopuses, sunflower stars, nudibranches, and moray and wolf eels. An Underwater Exhibit area showcases the complex ecosystems of the Pacific Ocean, including animals native to the estuary habitats of the Columbia River. A number of live fish recovered from the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, known as the “tsunami fish,” are also displayed.
At the aquarium’s Discovery Center, young visitors may experience a number of the aquarium’s invertebrate species up close with touch pool opportunities, including chances to interact with starfish, sea urchins, and sea anemones. Microscopes are offered for investigation of miniature species. Staff members are also on hand at all times to answer questions about the facility’s animals.
Ongoing Programs and Education
The aquarium is open year-round except for major national holidays, with hours varying throughout the winter and summer seasons. General admission tickets are valid for entrance all day throughout the day of purchase, with special rates for children, seniors, and families of up to six members. Children under five years of age may visit the aquarium for free with the purchase of an adult ticket. Special group rates are offered for schools and organizations, including curriculum-incorporated field trip opportunities for elementary and secondary school groups. As there are no public restroom facilities at the aquarium, restroom access is provided at the nearby Turnaround, located three blocks away.
A variety of public special events are offered by the aquarium throughout the year, including periodic Beach Discovery Programs held outside on the aquarium’s grounds, featuring educational displays and meet-and-greet opportunities with aquarium animals. A History and Hops lecture series is co-sponsored by the aquarium and the Seaside Museum and Historical Society, providing opportunities to learn about local history while enjoying local craft brews. A Feed The Seals, Feed The Community annual food drive held between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve allows visitors to enter the aquarium for a donation of two cans of food, with all donations going to help feed underprivileged families in the Seaside community during the holiday season. Other major special events include a National Estuary Day, celebrating the area’s Necanicum Estuary habitat, and a Nehalem Bay Crab Derby, offering $1,000 cash prizes.
Seaside Resort Community
The area that now encompasses the city of Seaside was historically the location of the Clatsop Ne-co-tat village. In 1899, the area was incorporated as a coastal resort city, and in 1912, French immigrant Alexandre Gilbert was elected as the city’s mayor, adding significant amounts of beachfront land to the area as a result of personal land donations. Throughout the early 20th century, the area became established as a seashore resort community, known for its beachfront cottages, resorts, boardwalks, and cultural attractions. Today, the area is best known as a beachfront tourist town and natural refuge, home to Ecola State Park and the Tillamook Head National Recreation Trail.
200 N Prom, Seaside, OR 97138, website, Phone: 503-738-6211