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Video: What Not to Do on Oregon Coast: Small Beaches During Big Tides

Published 02/06/2018 at 3:55 PM PDT - Updated 02/06/2018 at 5:55 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Oregon Coast) – Every year it happens somewhere along the Oregon coast: someone is wandering a small beach during some big tides, and they get injured or worse. Usually it occurs in winter, of course, but higher tides can spell trouble on those beaches where there's a cliff instead of a foredune area, and there's little room for you to run from an incoming sneaker wave.

You are at the mercy of whatever the ocean has thrown at you, and you can't get away.

Everyone touts the idea of “not turning your back on the ocean.” That is not enough. Certainly during higher tidal events on those small beaches with cliffs. It also does not take one of those mammoth wave events where combined seas are at 20 feet or higher. When we say “higher tide events” we're not referring to high tide events, only higher than normal tides. Small beaches pose dangers at a wider range of circumstances.


The video above demonstrates this in all its madness: people venturing out onto one of those cliff-lined beaches when the tides are a bit too high for them to be there. Here, you see Oceanside during a somewhat stormy winter event. This is not even necessarily high tide of the day, nor wave height much over 15 feet.

"Conditions like these will get you killed," said Oregon Coast Beach Connection editor Andre' Hagestedt. "Some will joke about this is the gene pool thining out, but it's quite serious. This is dumb stuff to do."

Above: Oceanside in normal tide line conditions

It's beaches like this that pose those kind of dangers: where there are cliffs instead of dunes that then give way to the town itself. Others to look out for are Nye Beach in Newport, much of Lincoln City, Gleneden Beach, and a myriad of beaches just south of Cannon Beach like Arcadia, Hug Point and Arch Cape.

Broad beaches like Cannon Beach, Seaside, Agate Beach in Newport, Waldport, Manzanita, Pacific City and others give you room to run. Not all the time, however, but that's a separate article.

At Oceanside, normally the tide is a good 100 to 300 feet away from the cliff line. That's about right, even if conditions are a little crazy. In the video, however, the general tide line lingers around less than 100 feet away, and you see larger waves shrink that distance to 50 feet between the tide line and the cliff.

You can tell the cliffs are right where the vegetation begins, and there is a line of large cobblestones just beneath that pose their own dangers should you be forced to run.

In the video you see a trio of unwise visitors venture out into this thin stretch, with raging waves tumbling less than 100 feet away, and all manner of sneaker waves waiting to come charging in. You see the group get chased up the small beach by one large wave and forced onto that cobblestone stretch. It's easy to slip on these and thus fall right into the ocean, not to mention break something.

These folks got lucky. Don't rely on luck.

In short, hitting any beaches during those famed Oregon coast storms is a bad idea. But small beaches with a cliff behind them is really dumb. If you see conditions like this and a tide line this tumultuous, don't walk onto these smaller strands. If you're seeing less than 150 feet between the tide and a cliff line, that beach is trouble.

Rule of thumb: simply stay off beaches this small with cliffs. If you're tempted for some dumb reason, then take a few minutes to watch the breakers and see how many times they scoot up the beach and get closer to the cliffs. Even in slightly turbulent conditions you should do venture here.

Sadly, however, this isn't always enough. Oregon Coast Beach Connection was filming at Newport's Moolack Beach several years ago when we encountered this scene in the video below. There was generally plenty of room on the beach, with the tide line raging about two feet away. One or more sneaker waves came pile-driving in through that wide, normally safe distance.

Luckily, the videographer was standing at the pathway entrance to the beach and could make a good run for it. If they hadn't been, it could've been a different story. Where to stay in these areas - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours

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