Oregon Coast Spring Break Comes with Unusual
Creatures and Waves
|Brown waves at Seaside (photo Seaside Aquarium)
(Oregon Coast) - As the big spring break weeks begin on
the Oregon coast this weekend, there's much ado about something along
the beaches - and some of it is quite odd. From extreme low tide events,
strange brown waves, whale watch week, strange tide pool creatures that
emerge now, the big beach cleanup to the possibility of glowing sand,
these next two weeks provide some wild and wacky forms of repose.
In the weird category, the waves around Seaside have turned
a strange brown. It’s not algae. It’s not pollution or an
oil spill. In fact, it’s a sign of a healthy ocean.
“We have recently had a large bloom of diatoms making
our surf very brown and leaving the beach stained,” said Tiffany
Boothe, of Seaside Aquarium. “The clams are loving it.”
It’s actually a form of phytoplankton causing all
the raucous - the basic, bottom of the food chain in the ocean on which
most all life depends. They’re called diatoms, and they are microscopic
plant-like creatures that are actually responsible for most all sea foam
you see on the beaches. They are about 100 micrometers long – or
1000 times the size of a virus. Still, they’re not visible with
the naked eye.
|A close up of the diatom-filled waves (photo Seaside Aquarium)
This particular form of phytoplankton is so abundant right
now on the north coast that it’s causing really dark patches along
with very dark, brown chunks of foam. It also creates dark, oily-looking
patches in the sand as well as large tracts of brown foam and goo along
Other wild sights are sometimes on tap because of another
form of phytoplankton called dinoflagellates. These little creatures glow
in the water at night, and on the beaches for a few hours after washing
up on shore. It’s nicknamed “glowing sands” because
they emit a faint, bluish, green glow when stepped on or disturbed. This
is only visible in very dark conditions at night.
This phenomenon sometimes follows such high-density diatom
events as the north coast is experiencing now.
|One of the spectacular creatures you'll find in tide
pools now - a nudibranch. (Photo Seaside Aquarium)
Boothe also said some exceptionally good low tides are
coming up in the next week or two. Starting March 26 through April 2,
morning tides will be low enough to explore the tidal areas.
“The lowest tides of this series are on March 29
at 9:13 a.m. and
March 30 at 9:59 a.m.,” Boothe said. “Times
vary depending on where you are along the coast. Both tides are minus
Spring is also when the beautiful nudibranchs begin to
appear in the tidal areas. The volunteers at the Haystack Rock Awareness
program have already spotted a few.
“Be sure not to miss some of the prime tide pool
spots: Ecola State Park, Haystack Rock, Hug Point, and Arch Cape,”
Boothe added a little known secret about Seaside –
primarily a broad, sandy beach – actually has some nifty tide pools.
|Tide pools are in great abundance just south of Yachats, in places
like Strawberry Hill beach access.
“On the south end of town down by the cove,”
Boothe said. “Here you can expect to find big beautiful green anemones,
colorful ochre stars, and lots of tiny hermit crabs. The cove is also
one the best spots on the north coast to find sea shells, but if you are
looking for sand dollars your luck will be better if you go to the 12th
Avenue beach access and head north.”
The best time to go tide pooling or searching for shells
is one to two hours before low tide.
Other prime tide pool spots south of the north coast
include Oceanside, parts of Cape Kiwanda, and the area between Yachats
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