The term King Tides refers to the three highest tide sequences each winter. They are a natural phenomenon, and while a delight to observe, beach safety is at this time is particularly important. The next King Tides along the Oregon Coast are due January 13 to 15, 2021, the last King Tide of the 2020-2021 winter season.
King Tides are incredibly high tides -- much higher than normal high tides -- and the effects of King Tides may multiply with heavy winds and storms. The monster waves of 12 to 35 feet may cause high tide flooding. Beaches may be washed out, and favorite viewing sites might be underwater. Coastal property may be damaged, and roads may flood. Flooding is becoming more common due to the continued rise of the sea level.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has its Marine Operations Center of the Pacific in Newport, along the central Oregon Coast. NOAA is the largest fleet of oceanographic research and survey ships. They provide scientific information on King Tides and other environmental issues seeking to improve weather and climate predictions.
While King Tides occur globally along coastlines, I am focusing on the Oregon Coast, the part of the world I live in. I have divided the coastline into three areas: North Coast, Central Coast, and South Coast. There are 362 miles of coastline along Western Oregon, and the entire coastline is accessible to all thanks to Oregon’s 1967 Beach Bill.
Here are my favorite places to watch the tides and essential safety reminders for you to keep in mind.
My three favorite areas to watch the King Tides along Oregon’s North Coast are the Graveyard of the Pacific, Haystack Rock, and the Promenade at Seaside.
The Graveyard of the Pacific is located just outside the town of Warrenton, only about 2 miles off Highway 101. Here lies the wreck of the Peter Iredale. From Warrenton, travel Northwest Ridge Road to Peter Iredale Road. Step out of your car to explore the area and the Peter Iredale Wreck, one of the most well-known shipwrecks on the West Coast. The ship, the Peter Iredale Wreck, was a four-masted ship that ran aground in 1906.
This is a great place to photograph the King Tides as there are many photos of the Peter Iredale Wreck. It is interesting to return again and again to see how the King Tides continuously eat away at the old iron ship.
Wide Beaches And Sneaker Waves
The beach here is vast and open. There is plenty of parking available. It is very windy -- dress for the weather and sea spray. At times, one can walk right up the wreck, but this may not be possible with King Tides. During King Tides, it is best to observe from a distance. Do watch for sneaker waves and logs here.
Sneaker waves are waves that are bigger than usual and surge up the beach. Never turn your back to the ocean.
Be sure to stay off the logs along the beach. The logs along the beach are like sponges and can weigh a ton or more. They can roll very easily.
My second favorite spot to watch King Tides along the North Oregon Coast is the 235-foot sea stack called Haystack Rock.
Located in Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock is one of the most recognized landmarks in all of Oregon. The area is one of Oregon’s seven Marine Gardens and is a State Designated Protected Area.
Check Tide Tables
The beach at Haystack Rock is very open and expansive. Remember to check the tides and never turn your back on the ocean. View the King Tides from a distance.
Being a protected area, take only pictures, never take any remnants of sea life.
My third favorite area for observing the King Tides along the Northern Oregon Coast is the Seaside, along Highway 101. The area’s highlight is the Promenade or Prom, a 1.8-mile boardwalk that parallels the Pacific Ocean.
Safety From A Distance
Accessible to all, benches invite you to tarry a while, and you can also enjoy the views from the coin-operated telescopes along the way. The Prom offers you access to the 3 miles of beach. Along the shore, watch for sneaker waves and ocean debris like logs.
My three favorite areas to watch King Tides along the Central Oregon Coast are Seal Rock, Depoe Bay, and Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.
The Depoe Bay Sea Wall, on Highway 101, just north of Depoe Bay Harbor, is a fantastic area to watch the King Tides. The King Tides flood natural rock tubes and geyser-like sprays spout all over.
Safety Behind The Sea Wall
Observe the boundary of the wall -- do not climb on it or climb over it! The rocks on the other side are dangerously slippery. Enjoy the gusts of sea mist as you stroll the sea wall.
My second favorite Central Coast Area to watch the King Tides is Seal Rock State Recreation Site.
Seal Rock State Recreation Site is located 23 miles south of Depoe Bay on Highway 101. The 2.5 miles of rocky ledges that parallel the shore are partially submerged at all times, so it is interesting to note the difference during King Tides. There are two viewing platforms with an ADA-accessible viewpoint midway. The beach trail is short but steep in some areas. Restrooms are available.
Watch For Slippery Rocks And Cliffs
At Seal Rock, be especially careful of slippery rocks and cliffs. Be certain to check the tide tables and know when the tide is coming in, as incoming tides can quickly leave you stranded. Also, be aware of sneaker waves and never have your back towards the ocean.
Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, located in Newport, is a 1,000-acre park with tide pools, observation decks, an interpretive center, and Oregon’s tallest lighthouse. Restrooms and observation decks are wheelchair accessible.
Stay On Maintained Trails And Walkways
Yaquina Head tends to be very windy with steep cliffs, high surf, and large waves. It is essential to stay on maintained trails and walkways. Also, stay behind the fences. High surf leaves little room for beach walking. Remember to check the tides.
My favorite King Tide watching areas along the South Coast are Samuel Boardman State Scenic Corridor, located between Brookings and Gold Beach, and Harris Beach, located at Brookings.
The 12 miles of beach at Samuel Boardman State Scenic Corridor offer many spots for good viewing. Two favorites are the 1- mile Cape Ferrelo Loop and the 4-mile Cape Ferrelo to House Rock Trail. The latter has numerous paths to secluded beaches.
Observe Fences And Barriers
Here, watch for cliffs. Stay behind any fences, and even with no barriers, stay away from the edge of the cliffs. Rocks can be very slippery. Beach logs may be picked up and tossed about by the large King Waves. Watch for sneaker waves.
My second favorite King Tide watching area along the South Coast is Harris Beach, less than 2 miles north of Brookings. There are many viewpoints to watch the King Tides striking the sea stacks along the rugged coast.
Stay Away From Beach Logs
There are hundreds of logs along Harris Beach. Remember that ocean logs, although weighing up to several tons, can be tossed around by King Tides. Keep a safe distance away from the logs.
Watch also for slippery paths and rocks. Know when the tide is coming in.
Restrooms are available.
Hundreds of people flock to the Oregon Coast during King Tides. There are many great viewing areas along the entire 362 miles of coastline. These are my favorites. Check some of them out. I am sure you will enjoy the sights of the King Tides. Enjoy nature but remember to review your beach safety habits.
The Oregon King Tides Project
The Oregon King Tides Project invites visitors to visit the coast during King Tides to photograph the King Tides and submit the photos to track the sea-level rise along the Oregon Coast. Participants are also asked to photograph the same areas during normal high tides. You may use the link to upload your photos of the King Tides.
Jetties are NOT safe places to watch King Tides. The rocks are very slippery and sneaker waves are frequent.
Be sure to check weather forecasts because the weather can change on a dime, especially in wintertime. In the Pacific Northwest, the weather forecast is often called “the nowcast.” That is also one reason why one always carries an umbrella in the fall, winter, and spring.
Sturdy, closed-toed shoes with non-skid soles are your best friend.