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Seaside's Beach Discovery Days Reveal the Jaw-Dropping, Deeper Oregon Coast

Published 07/05/23 at 5:01 a.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Seaside's Beach Discovery Days Reveal the Jaw-Dropping, Deeper Oregon Coast

(Seaside, Oregon) – A nearly-30-year-old tradition has returned to the north Oregon coast for summer. Seaside Aquarium's Beach Discovery Program started in 1995, and it's now a legacy experience for visitors, showing off all kinds of beach facts with demonstrations, displays and some real shockers, actually. (All photos Seaside Aquarium)

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It is always free and happens every weekend at 10 a.m. Exact dates are July 9, 22, 23 and 30th; August 5, 12, 19 and 20. Discovery Days is weather-dependent, however, which means, well, you know: it's the Oregon coast.

Look for the big blue tent out on the sand, in front of the Seaside Aquarium. There, your world may change slightly, as staff give you a deep look into the beach as a whole, thriving ecosystem.

“Staff members use several interactive displays including microscopes which showcase diverse creatures such as plant and animal plankton, amphipods, and seaweed,” said Seaside Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe. “We have many historical photos to help people compare human and geological changes over time.”

Also on those tables will be shells and other finds from the tideline, all discoveries that make kids – especially – filled with awe. Boothe said this shows it's an ever-changing ocean for plants and animals as well as humans.

One of the popular displays is the signpost that shows mileage to other exotic locales, but it also shows how various creatures fly or swim their way here and back on enormous journeys. They use the Oregon coast as a place to stop and feed.

“We use instruments such as tide tables, wind gauges, thermometers, and a salinity gauge to compare daily, and sometimes hourly, changes to a seemingly static beach,” Boothe said. “These lead to displays about beach safety, verbal talks about gravity, the moon and tides, sand movement, upwellings, rip currents, and the food chain. All of this helps to spark discussions that lead to helping people see the interconnectivity of sand, water, air, plants and animals, the earth, the moon, and humans’ relationships to that process.”

In fact, every morning Seaside Beach Discovery staff record wind speed, ocean and air temps, ocean salinity and tidal data. They also head to the ocean and collect samples of plankton and other tiny critters. It's always evolving and changing throughout the day.

Diatom under the microscope - you could get to see this too.

One of the favorites has always been the wave machine, which shows how and why sand levels change on the coastline. It demonstrates how rougher conditions take away sand, but also how calmer waves bring sand in.

They also have displays of sand not just from the Oregon coast but also from around the world. People who've been to Discovery Days sometimes send them to the aquarium.

Keith Chandler, manager of Seaside Aquarium, said staff relate the rather surprising revelation of how much of the coastline here and northward didn't exist before 100 years ago. The building of the jetties changed the landscape drastically.

Chandler said one example they like to point out is that if you look at all those steps going down to the beach at the Turmaround, most of that is now covered up by sand.

“All those steps going down to the beach – there were 16 steps at the time,” Chandler said. “Now there's just a few.”

Where the beach now sits is where a platform once lay. There were plenty more steps going down beyond that, but these have disappeared. Chandler said foot traffic now keeps the dune from growing higher around the Turnaround's bottom.

Chandler said the activity that seems to surprise people the most is the magnet stick. If the weather is dry enough, they give you a stick with a magnet on it and this picks up a whole lot of magnetite bits. It never ceases to delight, Chandler said, and you can get a jar and take these home with you.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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