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Changes Looming in How You Enjoy Oregon Coast, Video

Published 03/30/2017 at 10:03 PM PDT - Updated 03/30/2017 at 10:04 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Photo: a vibrant spring sunset in Oceanside

(Oregon Coast) – Get ready for something different on the Oregon coast. This latter half of spring will be quite out of the ordinary, and yet few know about it. There are literally some new ways to enjoy the beaches in April and May. (Photo: a vibrant spring sunset in Oceanside).

Paradoxically, it's also when fewer people head to the coast – which, once more paradoxically – is one of the aspects that make it most enjoyable and different. The shoreline is bereft of crowds, weather does some interesting things, ocean skies are at their most photogenic of the year, Orcas start showing up, sea foam can get unusually spectacular, lodging prices can be truly enticing, your chances increase of seeing glowing sand, and a whole new load of unusual stuff starts washing up.

Some on the coast have actually referred to this time of year as the Secret Season, thanks to its unknown amenities and the lack of crowds. Also see the video below.


Above: Rockaway Beach on one of those photogenic, moody days

Striking Spring Skies. Ocean shore clouds become their most interesting and dramatic from March through May, creating more amazing sunset colors and arguably the most photogenic time of year. You'll notice lots of puffy clouds on the horizon, and in between them some amazing things can happen. Thanks to the manic mood swings of the weather on the coast, abruptly shifting from rainy to sunny, these conditions make for more vibrant hues at dusk than at any other time of the year.

Both summer and winter sunsets, though often striking, tend to lean towards one color. But in spring, those fat, globby clouds and unstable air masses give the sunlight more things to refract it and bounce off. This, in turn, creates the more intense hues and different shades.

Especially towards May, in full sunlight, you get large and often darkened clouds. But there are frequently breaks breaks them, creating photo opps where you get looming, moody clouds in the background and objects in the foreground lit up brightly. The contrasts can be jaw-dropping and easily make for the most remarkable beach shots you'll get all year.

Meteorologists say it can come down to increased humidity and the cleaner air (although summer's pollution does create some outstanding sights as well).

Orcas and Gray Whales. It's well known that this time of year is the big whale migration season, with thousands of gray whales moving past here with their babies in tow. While the most attention is paid to the late March portion of this journey, grays continue their trek well into April in great numbers.

Lesser known, however, is that Orcas come up the Oregon coast tracking the young ones for food. This is an unusual pod of killer whales, which scientists don't know much about. It results in awe-inspiring sightings throughout April, sometimes lasting well into May or early June. They've even been seen chasing seals through Newport's Yaquina Bay and up the river a couple of miles.

Crazed Sea Foam and Glowing Sand. The two of these are definitely connected.

Thanks to that nutty, indecisive weather of spring – where squalls and storms intermix with glorious bouts of sun – the oceans get seriously churned up. Spring is also the time of many phytoplankton blooms, when their population rises greatly. Since they are what makes up sea foam, and storms create even more sudsy bubbles with its oxygen-infusing churning, you can get foam going wild.


Brown waves in Seaside

Sometimes this appears as giant banks of foam that look like snow. It can cause giant globs of the stuff to go flying over Highway 101. At the Devil's Churn near Yachats, the formation there can create an unusual sight where blobs of the stuff can get sent flying upwards, looking like snow going the wrong direction.

A kind of phytoplankton called diatoms is what usually makes most sea foam, and if there's an especially large concentration, they can taint the waves brown. This happens frequently in Seaside and Warrenton, where it causes the foam to look like brownish sludge. Such sights often alarm visitors, but the town has signs pointing out that this is a good thing and the sign of a very healthy ocean.

Perhaps even more amazing, however, are the blooms of dinoflagellate phytoplankton, which are bioluminescent and can cause the sand to glow at night. Referred to as “glowing sand,” you need a dark beach, free of light sources, and then you have to scoot your feet backwards. If they're present, you'll see tiny, green-blue flashes.

You see this more in summer and fall when things are warmer, but if you're seeing tons of foam during the day, this can mean some amount of glowing phytoplankton are around.

Spring's Surreal Finds. With some amount of wintry storm still pummeling on occasion, the funky beach finds continue beyond winter. By this time, it's not impossible to find the real glass floats from Japan, which were so treasured for generations.

Other fun creatures include the velella velella, which really start hitting the sands in April or May. (Indeed they're being sighted now).

Lodging Price Nirvana. Oregon coast officials say lodging prices are still near winter lows, but hoteliers really get motivated by the lack of crowds in April and early May so that exceptional deals can rise up. Two-for-one specials abound, as do situations like “stay two nights, get the third free.” You can find a huge list of Oregon coast lodging here.

More Motivation. April and May are when the lowest tides of the year happen, sometimes dipping into minus one foot or even three feet. Agate beds really pop up in many places, thanks to all that tidal melee. They also disappear quickly, however.

A true insiders tip: the week before Memorial Day weekend is one of the most inviting, as nearly not a soul heads to the Oregon coast then. You have all sorts of beaches and amenities to yourself, and many lodgings are nearly desperate to get people out there. Where to stay for this - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours

Oregon Coast in Spring: What You Don't Know

#OregonCoast in Spring: what you don't know. Crazed sea foam, grey whales, killer whales, the most photogenic skies of the year, glowing sand....and hardly a soul out there. Full stories at http://beachconnection.net/oregoncoastspring

Posted by Oregon Coast Beach Connection on Monday, March 13, 2017

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