Salal (Gaultheria shallon)

Salal is an evergreen, understory shrub found in coastal forests from British Columbia to southern California. It is identified by its shiny, dark green leaves and its purple-to-black, berry-like fruits. Lewis and Clark wrote about salal in their journals, a plant they first encountered on the Oregon Coast near Astoria in 1806. Long before these explorers discovered salal, however, Native Americans used this plant in a variety of ways, including as a medicine, food, dye and utensil. Wildlife including bears, deer, elk and beavers also enjoy salal.

Salal continues to be a good food source for humans today. The berries are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants that prevent degeneration. Berries can be eaten fresh, added to smoothies, pies, jam and fruit leather. They are ripe during late summer – usually August and September. Keep an eye out for this plant next time you explore Oregon’s forests.

Northern Elephant Seal (Mirounga angustirostris)

Dozens of different species of marine mammals can be found off Oregon’s Coast. Perhaps one of the most distinctive to make its way on shore is the Northern Elephant Seal, the largest pinniped carnivore that occurs along the North Pacific Coast. This animal gets its name from its size as well as the trunk-like “nose” – known as a proboscis – that is found on males and can be inflated to enhance vocalizations during mating season. Adult female elephant seals can weigh up to 1,700 pounds, and adult males can weigh up to 5,000 pounds! Unlike other mammals, including humans, that shed hair year-round, elephant seals experience this one time a year in a process called molting when they come ashore and shed the first layer of skin and their fur. The skin and fur come off in sheets as new skin and fur replace the old.

For a period of time elephant seals were thought to be extinct after they were killed in large numbers for their blubber. A small group survived off the coast of Mexico. Thanks to protections in Mexico and the United States, scientists believe there are around 170,000 northern elephant seals today. Elephant seals do not generally breed in Oregon, but visitors to the South Coast may be fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of one at Cape Arago State Park (near Coos Bay), the only location where elephant seals haul out year round in Oregon.

Dungeness crab have been commercially harvested on the West Coast for more than 150 years and today this fishery is considered the most valuable single species commercial fishery in Oregon with an average value of 32.5 million dollars. The ocean crab season along the Oregon coast typically begins on December 1st and continues through August, although the majority of the harvest occurs during the first eight weeks of the season.

During the peak of the Dungeness crab harvest fresh crab is readily available at supermarket seafood counters and specialty seafood markets up and down the coast. Click here to find fresh crab near you! You can also try your hand at harvesting Dungeness crab year round on the Oregon Coast. Crabbing requires minimal gear that is often available for rent in coastal towns and can be done from a boat or dockside. Try it today!

Don’t forget to stop by the South Coast’s annual celebration of this treasured resource next month at the 33rd Annual Charleston Crab Feed!