Chronicling Oregon's 'King Tides'


As Oregon experiences its highest tides of the year, volunteers will be documenting the effects.

Nov. 28, 2018 — Each winter, two things happen along the Oregon coast in addition to the annual oceanic trek of grey whales to warmer waters in Mexico: Oregon experiences its highest tides of the year, and the Cape Perpetua Visitors Center begins offering free educational presentations as part of its winter programs.

This weekend, the visitors center will focus on a program first established in Australia in 2009 to document its highest tides — called “king tides” —in 18 years. The all-volunteer program acquired more than 2,000 photos documenting the effects of the extreme tides in low-lying areas. Eventually, in 2011, Oregon joined British Columbia, Washington and San Francisco, Calif., as part of the King Tide Photo Initiative.

Once again this year, the program is looking for volunteers to photograph the effects of king tides in specific areas in an ongoing effort to understand the impacts of sea-level rise — such as flooding and erosion — in the coming decades in conjunction with global warming and climate change.

Leading this Saturday’s presentation will be Fawn Custer, Volunteer Coordinator for CoastWatch. Along with a brief introduction to CoastWatch describing the various opportunities for volunteers, Custer will explain the impact of rising tides on Oregon’s shoreline and the potential impacts on its infrastructure. She will also explain the guidelines for the photos needed to document these events and how best to get involved.

Sea level is predicted to rise over the next century, exposing several areas of the Oregon coast that are particularly vulnerable due to their low elevations along the shoreline.

Documenting the impacts during this annual window of extreme tides helps increase understanding of how to prepare for high tides which, while infrequent today, will likely become increasingly frequent in the decades ahead.

The King Tides photo project generates information that can be used by coastal communities to develop plans to address increasing vulnerability to flooding and erosion.

So, what causes these extreme tides? When the orbits and alignments of the Earth moon and sun reach a particular point each year — when the Earth is closest to the sun, and the sun and moon are aligned — the gravitational pull is at its greatest, increasing the tidal range of our planet. The results are the lowest of low tides and highest of high tides.

The first round of king tides for winter 2018-19 begins this month and will continue in December and early January.

This Saturday’s program at the Cape Perpetua Visitors Center will provide anyone interested in volunteering for the King Tides project with information on how to get involved, what areas of the Oregon coast will be the focus, and when the best times for photographing the tides take place.   

Custer’s presentation, “King Tides, Sea Star Wasting and marine Debris,” will begin at 1 p.m. and is free to the public.

Through November and December, join guest speakers at Cape Perpetua for free educational presentations along with hiking, tidepooling and exploring. Presentations are being held every Saturday through to Dec. 29, and will include special focuses on wildlife, geology, landscapes and threatened species along with other unique topics.

Upcoming programs include:

• Saturday, Dec. 8, 1 p.m.

The Impacts of Microplastics on a Near Shore Food Chain

Dorothy Horn — Marine Corps Veteran and a Graduate Research Fellow for the National Science Foundation

Dorothy will talk about the plastic pollution problem in the ocean, how it breaks down into microplastics as well as other sources of microplastic pollution.

She will share the detrimental effects she has found and discuss the dangers to marine and possible human health effects. She will also discuss how this is not only a health issue but an economic one for folks that depend on the ocean for their livelihood and there are many things we can do to combat plastic pollution.

Saturday, Dec. 15, 1 p.m.

Orcas of the Oregon Coast

Colleen Weiler — WDC Fellow, Rekos Fellowship for Orca Conservation:

Killer whales, also known as orcas, are perhaps the most widely recognized kind of whale or dolphin in the world.  With their distinctive black-and-white coloring, tall dorsal fins, and reputation as fearsome hunters, everyone knows what an orca is and how they live — or do we?

There is a lot more happening beneath the waves than first meets the eye. With at least ten different types of orcas found in the world’s oceans and a long history of separation by appearance, diet, and culture, we may not know orcas as well as we think we do.

Three distinct kinds of orcas can be found off the coast of Oregon, separated by their favorite foods, social lives, and migratory patterns.

Join us to learn about the orcas of the Oregon Coast and how Oregonians can get involved in their survival.

Saturday, Dec. 22, 1 p.m.

How Rising Sea Levels Would Affect the Estuaries along the Central Oregon Coast

Fran Recht — Habitat Program Manager, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission

Recht will describe analyses done for the Newport-based MidCoast Watersheds Council about the impacts of Sea Level Rise on Oregon's tidal wetlands. The project assessed the extent of inundation that would occur in Oregon’s estuaries under five different sea level rise scenarios.

Maps and graphs of local estuaries will help to clarify areas of vulnerability and where and to what extent tidal marshes will survive.

Sunday, Dec. 23, 1 p.m.

Alsea Tribal Life at Cape Perpetua Prior to European Contact

Dick Mason — Cape Perpetua Volunteer

Learn about the pre-European inhabitants of Cape Perpetua from one of Cape Perpetua’s exceptional volunteers.

Saturday, Dec. 29, 1 p.m.

Kevin Bruce/Molly Kirkpatrick — Siuslaw National Forest Archaeologists

Join Forest Service archaeologists for an afternoon speaking session.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information, call the Visitor Center at 541-547-3289.


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