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Photo by Gary Hayes
The gravitational pull of the moon (and, to lesser extents, the gravitational pull of the sun and the centrifugal force due to the earth's rotation) coaxes the ocean into tidal rhythms, presenting a significantly varied coastline depending on the season and the time of day. "Minus" tides, coinciding with the new and full moons, can offer extreme low tides that expose many areas inaccessible during most of the year, affording exceptional opportunities for exploration and recreation. Check local tide tables for the best tides and plan your tidepool, clamming or beach walk adventure.
Catch a glimpse into a world of plants and animals that live most of their lives covered by sea water. Exciting marine fauna such as sea stars, urchins, hermit crabs, anemones, chitons, and limpets can be found in areas such as Yaquina Head, Haystack Rock and Cape Kiwanda. Of course, please be careful not to disturb or damage these fragile habitats - foot traffic and curious dogs can do irreparable harm. Walk only on bare sand or rock and never step on exposed barnacles, anemones, or even seaweed. Collecting of sea life is prohibited in many of these protected areas, so leave tidepool animals alone.
Open, sandy beaches such as Rockaway, Manzanita, Seaside and Long Beach are fantastic areas to go digging for delicious Razor Clams, and the bays of Yaquina, Siletz and Nehalem are perfect for hunting bay varieties like Gapers and Steamers. The lowest tides offer access to infrequently harvested clamming areas, but make sure to have the proper equipment, a license (available at any sporting goods store), and check with the Department of Fish and Wildlife (www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/shellfish) to verify that clamming season has not been temporarily closed due to elevated marine biotoxin levels.
People who love exploring area beaches will be delighted by the expansive opportunities presented by minus tides. Enjoy Fogerty Beach, Cape Kiwanda, Short Sands Beach, and The Cove in Seaside. The lowest tides also enable greater distance-walking, such as the stretch from Cannon Beach south to Hug Point, though by the time you're ready to turn around, the tide may have begun its return journey up the beach and retracing your steps may involve a little swimming. To play it safe, consider leaving a car at your destination.