Time Your Tillamook Coast Activities with the Tides

Every year at Christmas, Dad gives us the coming year’s tide table. My parents live on the Tillamook Coast and have five adult children, married with families. We all get tide tables for Tillamook County beaches. Cute little tide table booklets with green or red ribbon tied around them, hidden in the boughs of the Christmas tree.

Tillamook County tide table

A Tillamook County tide table makes a great gift.

Dad gives us those tide tables hoping we’ll plan our trips to their place throughout the year around the various recreational activities that are available, particularly during low tides. We all enjoy digging for clams, and exploring caves and tide pools during the lowest tides of the year.

Why would we need a tide table? Here are the top 5 reasons West Coasties check the tides:

  1. Beach safety. Go out on the Tillamook Coast beaches during an outgoing tide. Do not swim or wade in an outgoing tide. Always keep an eye out for sneaker waves.
  2. Shellfish harvesting. You’ll want a very low tide; minus tides are the best. Show up a couple of hours before the low tide for time to explore and find clams or mussels before the tide turns. See “Clamming for families” post for more clamming insights.
  3. Tide pools. Coast-goers of all ages enjoy exploring the tide pools for starfish, rock crab, limpets, sea anemones, shells and sand dollars.
  4. Crabbing. Crabbing is best when there is a small run-off between tides; that is, when the difference between the high tide and the low tide four feet or less. Crabbing is typically best early in the morning.
  5. Surfing. Surfers often like to go out mid-tide, and they look for longer wave intervals (the distance between a wave’s crest and its lowest point) and smaller waves.

How to read a tide table

The tide table booklet features the tides on a one-page-per-month view with the time and height of high vs. low tides. You can also find local tide tables online at www.tidetable.net/oregon or download a tide table app on your phone.

Watching high tide

During high tide, it’s best to watch the waves from a safe vantage point.

  • High tide will be expressed as a positive number, which indicates how high above the average low water mark the tide will be at its greatest height. A high tide of 7.0, for example, means that at its highest, the water will be 7 feet above the average low water mark.
  • Low tide will be expressed as a small number, sometimes a negative number. This number indicates the relationship between the water depth at its lowest ebb and the average low water mark. A low tide of 1.5 means the lowest tide will be 1.5 feet above the average low water mark.
  • Negative low tides are known as “minus tides” and are typically shown in red font as a negative number. A minus tide of -1 means the low tide will be one foot below the average low water mark.

Plan your outings around the tides. High and low tide times will be different every day, so make sure to create your plans around the tides on a specific day. Depending on your location, there may be one or two high and low tides in daylight hours.

Oregon’s Tillamook Coast is rich with outdoor activities you may have never tried. Time your adventures to explore tide pools at low tide, beachcomb before high tide or storm watch from a safe vantage point at high tide.

Nicole Miller
Nicole F. Miller is a freelance journalist with roots in Oregon’s Tillamook Coast. Nicole studied at University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communications and has served as a freelance journalist, brand journalist and public relations consultant since 2005. She is an outdoor enthusiast who lives in Aumsville with her husband, daughters and furry pets, visiting her family home in Cape Meares as often as possible.

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