Thursday, April 02, 2015

Otter Bay

This was our last stop before getting in line for the ferry back to the mainland. We parked off of Niagara Road and M read in the car while I walked the muddy trail down to this small beach in a northern corner of Otter Bay.


It's a small, sandy pocket beach.  I suspect the sandiness is due to steep slopes and a small stream that supply it with upland sediment and to its pocket nature, which keeps the sand from leaving once it arrives at the beach.

This is the last of my Pender Island posts and I should make two acknowledgements.  The first is to Theo Dombrowsi, whose Secret Beaches of the Salish Sea (The Southern Gulf Islands) has been a valuable resource, both here and on Salt Spring Island.  The other is to the Pender Island Parks and Recreation Commission and its volunteers, who have done a wonderful job of making so many beaches available, of marking them well, and of maintaining the trails and stairways.

In usual fashion, all nine of my Pender Island posts are labeled, and can be found at:
Gravel Beach [Pender Island]

Finally, this is the 700th post to Gravel Beach since December of 2005. The collection keeps growing and I trust that it is occasionally helping someone to stumble on a new beach or to look at an old beach differently.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Bricky Bay

Bricky Bay is a small cove and pocket beach on North Pender Island that was once home to a brick plant - rows of pile stubs crisscross the shore and the beach itself is a wonderful mix of native gravel and red bricks in various stages of rounding and disintegration.


There are also some nice shots at the Island Home blog (also links to other nice Pender Island photos and artwork).

Boundary Pass Drive

This was one of many nicely marked public beach access points around Pender - at the end of a short trail between residential properties. This particular one was a short walk from the cabin where we were staying on South Pender.


If it had been swash-aligned, it would have been a very nice pocket beach, but the predominant waves probably arrive obliquely and are further complicated by a lot of offshore islets and reefs. There's not much sand and gravel - just a thin band at the base of the bank - and the shore is mainly cobbles that probably roll around in storms, but don't go too far.

The central portion of the beach was backed by a low bluff of glacial material, eroding into someone's treeless lawn.  A new stairway was being built at the far end of the beach to replace one that had succumbed to falling trees and possibly a collapsed bank.

The most intriguing thing was the spherical boulders or concretions weathering out of the sandstone.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Port Browning

Port Browning is the name of the bay, the community, and the marina (and the pub), although apparently the beach is called Hamilton Beach* (and lies at the end of Hamilton Road). Pender Island's primary (and only) shopping district, Driftwood Center, is located half a mile inland.


I suspect this may be the longest single beach on either of the Penders, although if you look at the map, you might note that it's really only half a beach. It extends across the south side of the bay but abruptly ends at a small rocky knob, just short of the marina. There appears that there may have once been a small marsh - maybe even a lagoon - behind the berm and under the lawn, but not any more.

*Hamilton Beach is probably better known for blenders and kitchen mixers, but there is apparently no connection to Pender Island. Hamilton and Beach were two employees of the company when it was begun in Racine, Wisconsin, back in 1910. Thank you, Wikipedia!

Poet's Cove

This small pocket beach faces northwest towards the head of Bedwell Harbor (Medicine Beach).The resort - which is a bit out of synch on an otherwise low key kind of island - climbs up the hill behind the beach. The marina and Customs station (this is a convenient place for boaters to check in when they cross the boundary) extend out into the cove. The resort is closed (well, they allow tourists to wander through) so everything was pretty empty.


The beach, like many, is a combination of mineral sediment and shell debris. Pocket beaches tend to form in coves, which correspond to valleys in the landscape, and therefore are often fed by small streams. And these streams carry sediment - in this case, both glacial and Cretaceous I suppose - from their watersheds down to the beach. For the sake of geologic accuracy I should point out that the clasts within the Cretaceous Nanaimo Group are presumably much older than that.

The shell on beaches around here is mainly clam shell, washed up from lower on the beach face, and barnacle fragments, washed off rocks on adjacent promontories or the piles that support the docks.

I liked the way the shell had piled up on the upper beach - right against the bulkhead and even up and over it (I wondered if some of this had been spread over the rockery as a landscaping touch, but I think a bulk of it ended up here naturally.)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Gowlland Point

Gowlland Point, assuming I got the geographic names correct, is just northeast of Brooks Point. It's built from a massive reddish conglomerate and has a navigation marker on the tip. The view to the southeast includes the San Juans (the international border is only a mile or so offshore) and Mount Baker (in the clouds today).


To the north of Gowlland Point - and below the stairs at the end of the road -- is a pair of coalesced pocket beaches. The rocky ledge that divides them includes both a conglomerate with heavily weathered cobbles and some spheroidally weathered gravel beds, but what really stood out was an amazing boulder of heavily altered rock on the beach itself.

Brooks Point

Brooks and Gowlland Points (on South Pender Island) are adjacent and some of the descriptions make it a bit hard to distinguish the two - not that it really matters. I believe the more northeasterly point, and the more distinctive one, is Gowlland, which I'll save for the next post. The top photo is of Gowlland, taken from Brooks (or so I think). The second is of Brooks, taken from Gowlland.

Both points, and everything else around here, are carved out of strongly folded Nanaimo Group conglomerates (Cretaceous) - which I think I first learned about during an orientation field trip at UW more than 30 years ago!  Nanaimo sedimentary rocks - which are not all conglomerates - form most of the southern Gulf Islands.  The aerial view shows the extent to which sedimentary structure controls the shape of the islands.


I wish I had photos of the gigantic boulders in the forest on the way here along Gowlland Point Road. From some drive-by geology - and some inferences from Google Earth - they look like rockfalls along the steep ridge between the road and Greenburn Lake. I suspect they are old - maybe they are blocks of the conglomerate that fell off the cliff or out of the edge of the glacier when the ice retreated?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Medicine Beach

This small swash-aligned beach lies at the head of Bedwell Harbor on North Pender Island, just down the hill from Slow Coast Coffee, a small but important reference point during our three day visit.

Eroding sedimentary beds at the east end of the beach shed blocky cobbles that quickly gave way to more rounded gravels down the beach - although I didn't investigate whether this was due to dilution (with glacial gravels) or rounding (by breakage and abrasion).


The distant view (with Salt Spring Island in the background) is from Mount Norman on South Pender.

The beach shelters a small back-barrier marsh - protected as a natural reserve.

Mortimer Spit

We spent last weekend exploring Pender Island, so this weekend I'll see if I can dribble out posts on a few of the beaches I collected.  We spend a week every summer on Salt Spring Island, but other than occasional ferry stops at Otter Bay, had never made it to Pender.

Mortimer Spit is located at the western end of South Pender Island and marks the northeastern entrance to the Pender Canal. It's oriented northward, shaped by waves from the southeast. Refracting waves and tidal currents have wrapped the tip of the spit around to its leeward shore. I'm not sure about the source of sediment - although perhaps it's a combination of glacial material and older Nanaimo Formation gravels (which we'll see plenty of on this island), eroded from the rocky bluffs along the east side of the island. But this is a pretty rugged shoreline and I doubt there's much longshore transport along here.


Mortimer Spit is a neat little site, although I'm not a big fan of beaches that look like dirt parking lots, which this one sure does.

The end of the spit provides a nice view of the Pender Canal, which separates North and South Pender. The two islands were connected by a narrow isthmus until 1903, when it was opened to provide more convenient passage for a small steamship sailing between Hope Bay and Sidney. I'm not clear from the brief accounts I've seen as to the geologic nature of the original connection and whether its opening required dredging a low spit, digging through a ridge of glacial sediment, or blasting through bedrock (all of which might be possible).

Xelisen - meaning "Lying Between" - was the name of the rich aboriginal site bisected by the construction of the Canal. This must have been a great spot, with both rocky and gravelly substrates (different things to eat), sheltered coves, and access to both ends and to both sides of the island.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Rocky Point

I can't think of another stretch of shoreline that's undergone such major changes in the last decade, except perhaps the site of the Ledgewood landslide (also on the west side of Whidbey Island), but that was a very different kind of change. The change here is significantly greater than the sandy accretion we're seeing at Maxwelton and Useless Bay at the south end of the island.

Rocky Point (see earlier posts linked below) is where bedrock makes its reappearance as you head north along the west shore of Whidbey Island. A few rocky ledges appear at beach level and form a hard point that undoubtedly influences the shape of the coastline along here, acting much like a large groin, with a broad beach built up to the south and sharp indentation in the coast to the north.


Cliffside Park. The spits hadn't arrived here as recently as 2009.
It is along this shoreline north of the point where things have been changing. In the 1990s, there was no subaerial beach along this shoreline between Rocky Point and Cliffside Park (the Navy campground a kilometer north). There may have been shallow sand bars, but waves were still acting directly on the forest-topped bluff and the low bank at the campground was being rapidly undermined.

But sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s, the sand bars began to grow and emerged as a series of north-trending spits. As new spits formed and grew north, they formed a series of small lagoons. As the berms grew in height, vegetation became established. When I visited last, in 2009, the spits had not yet reached the campground, although there was an obvious bar just offshore.

Rocky Point: February 2009
North of Rocky Point: February 2009

We visited the site on March 6th. The beach just north of Rocky Point has eroded back dramatically, but there is a wide foreland in front of Cliffside Park, as if the whole spit complex has just continued to roll north. The historical imagery on Google Earth illustrates these changes pretty well.