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Rip & Go: Oregon Coast Trail – Ecola State Park to Arch Cape, OR

Slip past tides along cliffy coasts on an easy-to-plan long weekend.
May2012_Hutchison_EcolaBeach_440x260(Photo by: Dave Hutchison)

KEY SKILL: Reading a tide table

Master reading the numbers so your plans don’t get ruined by unexpected, impassable waves.

A. Date and day of the week
B. Time Pay close attention to legends. Is the time zone local? Does it account for daylight savings?
C. High tide and low tide are given in feet above or below the zero tide (a 19-year average of low low tides).
D. High high tide and E. Low low tide Most days have two high and two low tides (the 27th is unusual with only one low); often one is much more extreme. The lower the low, the more leeway you have planning your hike.
F. Ebb (outgoing) tide Sea level is falling. Plan to cross tricky spots during this time.
G. Flood (incoming) tide Sea level is rising.

Note: Tides change with weather conditions. Call Oregon State Parks (previous page) or the Cannon Beach Sheriff’s Department (503-436-2811) to ask the condition of the point
crossings and if there are any unusual tidal events happening.

SEE THIS: Sea Stars 
You might have grown up calling them “star fish,” but these carnivorous invertebrates aren’t fish (they’re related to sand dollars and sea urchins). Several of the world’s 2,000 sea star species inhabit Oregon’s rocky tide pools, including the sunflower, which can have up to 24 arms, and the ochre, which can be red, brown, purple, or gray. They may seem lethargic, but when hunting for prey, including crabs and snails the sunflower sea star can move more than three feet per minute on its thousands of tubular feet. Though most species can regenerate lost limbs (it takes about a year for one to grow back), being picked up by humans can cause severe damage or even death. Look before you step.

The Oregon coast can change dramatically from season to season and storm to storm. Winter squalls often scour beaches of sand, exposing bedrock. In some places, sand levels can vary as much as eight vertical feet, making low tides lower and high tides higher—and occasionally revealing some of the thousands of shipwrecks under Oregon’s beaches. For OCT hikers, a sandy summer stroll can turn to a clamber across tricky, rocky tide pools in early spring. Conditions usually stabilize from May through September; if planning any section of the OCT in early spring or late fall, call ahead to ask about current conditions.

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