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Lowest Tides of the Year on Oregon Coast in May
(Oregon Coast) – Spring and early summer are known for providing the lowest tides of the year on Oregon’s coast, and the story just gets more interesting from there.
May 17 and 18 will be the lowest minus tides, clocking in at more than minus two, around 7:20 in the morning, according to the Hatfield Marine Science Center. In fact, Bill Hanshumaker, public information officer with the center, said to look for 2.5-foot minus tides on those days.
Tides, Hanshumaker said, are brought about by the moon tugging at the oceans. Gravity makes a bulge in the bodies of water, which creates the high tide. On the opposite side of the Earth there is another high tide, because of the inertia of the ocean water, and because the Earth is being pulled towards the moon but the ocean water lags behind. This creates another “bulge” on the other side.
Consequently, these bulges on both sides of the Earth create low spots at the points in between. These are the minus tides.
The lowest tides of the year come when a combination of elements come into play.
“It has to do with the tilt of the Earth and the bulge of gravity on the water from the sun and the moon,” Hanshumaker said. “It depends on the geography of the place as well. It depends on where you are, and if that place is closest to the moon because of the tilt.”
Hanshumaker said we live around the 45th parallel, which is halfway between the pole and the equator. That can make a difference in low tides and high tides as well.
There are also other seasonal forces at work on these kinds of tides.
“There are some sideways forces that affect the tides too,” Hanshumaker said. “Currents can affect the tides as well.” These move in directions that increase or decrease a tide.
Topography of an area can also have something to do with how tides work. The Bay of Fundy, near Nova Scotia, has the widest tidal range in the world, which swings back and forth as much as 50 feet.
What all this means is that April 19 will also see some incredible low tides, as well as some dates in June, July and August. (See full schedule here)
It also means some spectacular sights at certain beaches along the Oregon coast. Here’s a guide for what to look for in some spots.
There are two particularly fascinating aspects to low tide in this charming town on the north Oregon coast.
One of the state’s favorite tourist attractions is, of course, Haystack Rock. Here, an unbelievably wide array of tide pools emerge beneath the seastack, which is actually the third highest in the world.
At the northern end of Cannon Beach, Chapman Point beckons, but doesn’t let you through to the other side. On that other side sits the clandestine Crescent Beach, only visible from above and at a distance, from Ecola State Park. However, it can be reached by a mile and a half trek through a trail that begins near the start of the road that leads you to the state park.
But at low enough tides, you can get between the two rocky masses from the northern accesses of the town, and into the pristine wonderland of Crescent Beach.
Yaquina Head, Newport
These days, one of its more popular features in the intertidal area, carved out of an old rock quarry. These wheelchair-accessible paved paths weave in and out of rocky tide pool areas that were created to see what happens when rocky shelves are left alone to become colonies of marine life.
There’s also an interpretive center here, as well as access to the noisy beach via a long staircase. This one’s a bear coming back up, but it’s worth it. The large cobblestones make quite a rattling noise when attacked by the tide – which tends to hit here with sizable force because the tide line is at a fairly steep incline.
At low tides, these are especially engaging, as you get to see chunks of land you’ve never been able to gaze at before.
Taft and Siletz Bay
Taft is a charming little place to go wandering – either on the beach or along the business district. A funky-colored surf shop sits nearby, as well as coffee shops, a hamburger stand near the beach that’s weathered all sorts of economic weather and managed to remain there seemingly forever, and there’s Mo’s Chowder on the bayfront.
On the beach at the northern end of Siletz Bay, there is a bend just before you enter the bay and the community of Taft (if you’re walking on the beach from the north). At this bend, the low tide can yield some intriguing, odd colored rock formations at the tide line. This depends on the sand levels, however.
Across the bay is a kind of refuge which is often the home of a great number of seals, especially in the winter months. Their barking and carousing is always an occasion for pause and amusement, and aside from the Sea Lion Caves near Florence or the Bayfront in Newport, it's the closest you can get to these boisterous creatures.
This is by far one of the most engaging wonderlands on the coast during low tides.
The beaches here are often shielded from the wind by the headland called Maxwell Point - about 100 yards north of the parking lot - looming above like a tall, dark, watchful god To the south, it's about three miles of sandy beach leading straight to Netarts Bay, with not much else other than rocks, boulders and driftwood piled up next to the vegetation line. About a mile down, you'll find some minor trails meandering through the brush underneath the Three Capes residential development, and if you're lucky, oddly colored slabs of rock become visible if the tide is low enough.
The real fun of Oceanside's beach lies inside Maxwell Point, however. The concrete tunnel here is a gateway to a stunning, secret world. Entrance into the tunnel is somewhat unadvisable during really wet days, because of falling rocks from the cliffs.
But if conditions are calm, on the other side sits a stunning beach where enormous boulders and weirdly shaped sea stacks give the entire area a feel like something out of the old ``Star Trek'' series. The entire area is cluttered with stuff to play on as well as a sense of the serene and the surreal.
The landscape changes drastically in many ways at low tides. Entire new vistas of rocky marine gardens show themselves. Not to mention, you can walk around Maxwell Point to get to its other side, instead of having to go through the tunnel.
Don't blink or you'll miss this delicious spot for exploration that sits near Depoe Bay, which is also haunted by the boiler from a long ago wrecked ship.
Not for the physically weak, it takes a bit out of you to gain access to the tidal intrigue scattered around here. A small gravel parking lot at the top leads to a rather steep and boulder-laden trail snaking its way down to the bay. At higher tides there's very little beach here, and even at lower tides it's mostly a labyrinth of rocky slabs and stones, sometimes covered with that nasty, green algae that'll make you slip and fall on your head in a split second.
But the fun of Boiler Bay lies in its awesome tide pools, clandestine caves and meandering paths over and around its mostly rocky landscape. If the tide is low enough, there’s an endless array of exploration to be had, opening up tiny coves and other places to hide from the wind.
The bay is named after its ancient, ragged resident: the boiler from the shipwrecked J. Marhoffer, which settled here after catching fire at sea. The boiler is all that remains, and it becomes visible at somewhat lower tides. In fairly rare circumstances, the tide gets low enough to get near the boiler or maybe even touch its encrusted corpse.
Getting back up is a strenuous climb, and for those unwilling or unable to make the jaunt there's picnic facilities and plenty of magnificent views from the parking lot.
Seal Rock State Park
This dynamic and enchanting beach wayside – between Newport and Waldport - offers a few winding paths and a lot of basalt or sandstone to frolic on and ascend, including a few structures which provide some beautiful views of an often wild surf. Clambering up and down these is some of the most amusement you can have on Oregon’s coast.
Part of the rocks here at Seal Rock is a bird sanctuary, so stay away from the signs that designate it as such.
There is one area of sea stack rocks that forms a narrow split, which is climbable and full of fun, especially at extreme low tides. This section of rock channels the tide farther in than other spots on this beach and at the same time allows you to climb around on it, taking you out over the rough tide and offering you a somewhat unusual little viewpoint from which to watch the action.
Look for the large grooves – or simply the patterns of diagonal lines made by rocks slightly separated from other rocks: these are the remnants of once active fault lines.
Bob Creek Wayside
More tide pools populate this obscure but fascinating place. They really emerge at lower tides, clinging to odd, mushroom-shaped rocky blobs at the southern end. At this end, there’s also a small sea cave and a huge boulder that creates a sort of arch by leaning up against the cliffs here.
At the north end, you’ll find plenty of mussels – but you’ll have to cross the creek to do so. During the winter that’s difficult, if not impossible and certainly unwise. During the summer months it’s much easier. When the extreme minus tides roll around, it’ll be a piece of cake.