Although the sunny days of summer are long behind us, winter brings its own special flavor to the Oregon Coast, in the form of king tides: an annual extreme rise in sea levels that is beautiful to watch but can be dangerous to experience near the coastline. Here’s how to safely enjoy king tides (and their opposing minus tides) on the Oregon Coast.
What Exactly Are King Tides?
King tides refer to the highest of the year’s high tides that occur when the moon is new or full and particularly close to the earth. During king-tide periods, large sections of normally exposed beach are fully submerged in water, and in some areas, waves can crash all the way up to seawalls and even cause flooding. The king-tide period is spectacular for witnessing the power of the ocean, but only from a safe distance.
When Are King Tides in 2023?
Each year, you can expect to see king tides in the winter months, but the dates change with the lunar calendar. In early 2023 they occur Jan. 20–22. You can still catch some pretty high — though not technically “king” tides — from Feb. 18–20. For more details about king and minus tides in the Seaside area, check out the city’s online tide-table page.
Experiencing King Tides Safely
King tides bring volumes of powerful water with them, and this ultra-high period is not a good time to be venturing on the beach, especially during storms that can create high waves. Getting too close to these tides can be deadly, and safety- and flooding-related beach closures are common during the winter months. For the best, safest views, join onlookers at the Seaside Promenade or head to a nearby vantage point such as Ecola State Park, a short drive south of Seaside. Better still, watch from the comfort of your own ocean-facing hotel room; popular options with sea views include the Inn at the Prom, the Best Western Plus Ocean View Resort and the aptly named Ebb Tide Oceanfront Inn.
The King Tides Project
While king tides are beautiful to see, they also can be useful for climate scientists looking to better understand the impact of rising sea levels as they give a glimpse into how higher waters may affect life in coastal areas.
Visitors and residents can help in these efforts by submitting images to the Oregon King Tides Project, co-coordinated by the Oregon Coastal Management Program and the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition. The project runs an annual photo contest that asks beachgoers to document coastal flooding and erosion as well as wave action. Just remember to always take images from a distance and never cross safety barriers.
The Flip Side of Kings: Minus Tides
While king tides are a spectacular sight to behold, beach lovers should take advantage of minus tides, which can occur on the same dates as king tides and at other times of the year. During these ultra-low periods, the tides recede to reveal sections of the beach that are usually underwater or in rocky coves, with tiny pools full of marine life. Low- and minus-tide times can be great for walks along the beach — just be mindful of shifting tides, and never turn your back to the ocean. Check out our guide to beachcombing in Seaside.
Tide pooling is a great way to get a firsthand glimpse of life on the Oregon Coast. You’ll find great tide pooling at extremely low minus tides at the Cove, which features a rocky area on the southern end of town. Other popular spots can be found just a short jaunt from Seaside, notably at Ecola State Park, around Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock, and Short Sand Beach and nearby coastline in Oswald West State Park. Protect the sensitive marine ecosystem by watching your step on rocks where sea creatures live, and avoid rough handling or removing anything from tide pools.
King tides photo by Don Frank; Tidepool photo courtesy of Oregon State Parks