portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reposts oregon & cascadia

environment

Low Tides Draw Many to Northwest Beaches

Oregon was expecting a rush of razor clam hunters on its northern beaches, where they hoped to take advantage of the minus-tide there, said the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department's Anne Pressentin. "The tides aren't as low here as they are in Puget Sound, but there are definitely people out and about a lot of them razor clamming," said Pressentin, who planned to go clamming herself this weekend. "We make some great chowder."
Larry Halvorsen shows his son Liam a crab at Golden Gardens State Park
Larry Halvorsen shows his son Liam a crab at Golden Gardens State Park
Low Tides Draw Many to Northwest Beaches

Fri Jun 4, 9:22 PM ET

By GENE JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer

SEATTLE - From barnacles to limpets, crabs and sea stars, the lowest tides in 19 years are revealing all sorts of unusual creatures trapped in Puget Sound tidepools to the delight of flip-flopped, galoshed and sandal-clad masses.

Hundreds of people explored the sound's beaches Friday, with many more expected to head out over the weekend.

"It's really, really interesting. It gives you a window into what is there all the time that you don't see sea cucumbers, sea stars, maybe an octopus," said King County naturalist Polly Freeman, who brought her 20-month-old son, Nate, to the beach at Seattle's Golden Gardens park.

There are 36 factors that affect the tides, from the Earth's proximity to the sun and the moon to the moon's angle in relation to the equator, said University of Washington oceanography lecturer Richard Strickland.

Every 19 years, those factors line up just so creating the lowest low tides and the greatest differences between low and high tides, he said. Virtually everywhere outside of the tropics will have seen the lowest low tides in 19 years between about Friday and Sunday, he said.

"It's almost as if you have two watches, and one is running a little fast," Strickland said. "Somewhere down the road, one will be 12 hours faster than the other, but in twice that time they'll be back in sync."

Puget Sound's lowest tide is more noticeable than most because it's shallower than open ocean beaches, and the sound acts as a smaller container: When the tide drops to 4.1 vertical feet below the average low tide, as it did Friday at 12:26 p.m., the water can recede hundreds of yards from shore. The rest of this weekend, July 3-4 and a few other dates this summer will also offer extremely low tides.

While Friday's was the lowest in 19 years in Puget Sound, it's actually not much lower than other lowest-tides of recent years less than 6 inches difference but that small amount can reveal a lot of life.

As the water recedes, it strands creatures in the muddy pools left behind: anemones, barnacles, moon snails, clingfish and lots of fragrant, rotting seaweed. Clams become easy picking for gulls, herons and people alike. Oregon was expecting a rush of razor clam hunters on its northern beaches, where they hoped to take advantage of the minus-tide there, said the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department's Anne Pressentin.

"The tides aren't as low here as they are in Puget Sound, but there are definitely people out and about a lot of them razor clamming," said Pressentin, who planned to go clamming herself this weekend. "We make some great chowder."

Many schools scheduled field trips to check out the tide pools, and King County and the Seattle Aquarium had scores of trained volunteer naturalists out as they do every year during the summer's low tides to answer questions from parents and children alike about what they found and to tell them how to keep from harming the creatures or the ecosystem.

Eight-year-old Preston Stover begged his mom to let him keep a dead gunnel, a small, eel-looking fish that serves as food for salmon and ling cod. She declined "It's going to stink" but Preston was hoping to impress his cousin.

"He lives in the country," Preston said. "He knows a lot about animals. He's sort of a naturalist. He's 8 years old."

Along with the low tides come high tides that are slightly higher than usual, though the state's highest tide will come close to the winter solstice, in December. High tides are more of a concern at that time of year because of the increased likelihood of storms.

At Seahurst Beach in Burien, south of Seattle, Seattle Aquarium naturalists worked with a group of 30 high school students to divide the beach into quadrants and identify the numbers of each species. In a few years, workers are expected to remove the seawall there, and Friday's project was designed to collect data that can be used to study how the beach changes after the seawall is demolished.

"I could be the luckiest person on the face of the earth look at what I get to do," said Seattle Aquarium naturalist Janice Mathisen, who was working with the high school students. "We have an incredible diversity of life on our city beaches. It's wonderful for kids to see that."

On the 'Net:

 http://www.seattleaquarium.org

 http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20040605/ap_on_he_me/low_tides

homepage: homepage: http://www.seattleaquarium.org

It drew me out 04.Jun.2004 22:56

Arg

It also got me my first sunburn in about 19 years. Other than that, I walked about 5 miles of beach about 20 miles north of Seattle. I ran into all sorts of interesting creatures. Crows, Herons and Bald Eagles were out in force gobbling it all up and the tidal pools were filled with eels and the extra large hermit crabs you usually don't see, as well as a plethora of other sea creatures.