Extraordinarily Low Tides Come to Puget Sound


Puget Sound saw its lowest tide in more than a decade Wednesday, 4 feet lower than the average daily low tide. Another extraordinarily low tide is expected Thursday.

Ian Miller of the University of Washington and Washington Sea Grant explained to KUOW that a wobble in the moon's orbit is nearing its peak, making the tides roll in and out more powerfully than usual. That wobble, known as the lunar nodal cycle, is giving us the lowest tides in 13 years.

The lowest tide arrived midday Wednesday, at -4.28 feet. On Thursday, the tide is forecast to be out to -4.11 feet at 12:58 p.m.

Miller said that could give us an extra 6 inches of beach we rarely see.

Over the next couple of days, beach naturalists will be giving tours at state parks throughout the region including Richmond Beach, Carkeek Beach, Golden Gardens, Constellation Park/Richey Viewpoint, Lincoln Beach, Seahurst Beach and Saltwater State Park.

As you venture out to the beach, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Tread lightly and leave no trace. Low tides are the most stressful time for animals on the beach, said Charlotte Spang, a field outreach coordinator for the Seattle Aquarium. Be careful not to walk on eel grass — which juvenile salmon use to hide — and know that turning over a rock could mean ruining a shore crab's lifelong home.

Leave the bucket and pails behind. Critters become accustomed to their homes and cold temperatures. An animal carried around in a bucket may become too warm and will have to find a new home when returned to the ocean.

Touch wildlife gently. If you do want to touch something, make sure that your finger is wet to protect the wildlife, Spang said. "Touch it as carefully as you would touch your own eyelashes," she said.

Be curious. With low tides, more of the intertidal zone will be exposed than in other times of the year. The Seattle Aquarium has an online guide to identify plants and animals.

Wear a good pair of shoes. They should be able to get wet and ideally have some grip.