Saturday, November 28, 2009

Joemma Beach

Joemma Beach State Park is located on the west side of the Key Peninsula, just north of Whiteman Cove. Historically, Whiteman Cove was a large estuary or lagoon separated from Case Inlet by a spit. The spit is now a causeway - the entrance road to Camp Coleman (YMCA) - and the estuarine lagoon is a large lake, except for a very small remnant spit and lagoon at the north end next to the Park. I was last out here in 2000, immediately after the Nisqually Earthquake, noting the sand boils, cracks running through the mud, and slumps in the roadway fill resulting from the shaking (the epicenter was about 10 km southeast and about 30 km down).

What attracted me most to Joemma is the beautiful high bluffs and the long stretch of undeveloped shoreline that lies to the north (see Google Earth map linked to the title of this post). I suspect it is one of the larger remaining chunks of unaltered beach, bluff, and upland forest in South Sound. Unfortunately, the shoreline north of the Park is heavily posted - I guess someone owns this beach. Exploration is clearly discouraged, but sediment movement clearly is not -- the bluffs are dumping sand and gravel on the beach and and the air photos show a wonderful set of spits across the next small estuary to the north.

Mayo Cove

Mayo Cove is on the east side of the Key Peninsula. The village of Lakebay is at the head of the cove. And Bay Lake is just up the valley a little bit.

Penrose Point State Park lies along the southeastern shore of the cove.
The Park consists of lots of forested shoreline - mainly low bluffs, but also several small barrier spits. One of the big draws of the park is "the spit", which really isn't a spit at all, but a slender ridge or bar extending offshore - visible at low tides and probably the seaward extension of one of the glacial ridges. Or at least that's my understanding. It's been years since I've visited here at low tide, and today most of the beach was underwater.

The park has a couple of day use areas. One is a picnic area and a soggy lawn, probably built over a historic wetland. The green of the lawn was matched by the enteromorpha (or ulva?) recently washed up on the beach. Around the corner is a long terrace of fill, held together with an ugly, and aging, timber bulkhead. Makes it easier to walk along the shoreline at high tide - but no more beach! Seems like there might be a compromise.

The other day use area is located on a small spit that sticks out into the bay across from the old Lakebay Marina. It looks like it has an interesting history - there are a series of plank groins - and a plank wall going down the spine of the spit. Sort of looks like someone tried to put the spit in a wooden box. Sort of makes for a strange spit. Seems like it might do perfectly okay on its own, though I suppose if you took out the timber skeleton all at once, the spit might wobble a little before getting its sea legs back.

Key Peninsula

The day after Thanksgiving and the weather report claimed this would be the dryest day of the weekend. The rest of the family had other commitments, so I dropped D in Redmond, filled up my coffee cup, and headed for the Tacoma Narrows and western Pierce County.

The Key Peninsula is the southern extension of the larger Kitsap Peninsula, the convoluted almost-island connected to everything else in the continental U.S. by a narrow strip of land between Belfair and Allyn (and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge). It is home to Vaughn, Longbranch, and Lakebay. It is also home to Home (an ex-Utopian enclave on Van Geldern Cove). Most of its shoreline is hard to get to without a boat or a deed to waterfront property, but there are still some nice beaches accessible to the rest of us. Turned out to be a wonderful afternoon.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

West Point

West Point, the western tip of Discovery Park, is arguably Seattle's finest beach (there are others, but each has a very different character). Its north and south beaches converge to form a cuspate foreland that points west from Seattle toward the Olympics. There used to be a tidal lagoon, with an inlet on the north side of the point, where the big treatment plant now sits.

Every beach has a story, or two, but this one has many. Native American history, earthquakes and landslides, tsunamis and subsidence, and the punctuated evolution of a coastal landform. The military showed up and created Fort Lawton, then Seattle showed up with the treatment plant. In 1980, a large sewage lagoon on the south beach was removed along with its enclosing riprap and the beach was nourished with a few tens of thousands of yards of sand and gravel and planted with lots of dune grass. Today, walking the south beach, you might never know any of this (if you ignore the hum in the background of Seattle's waste stream being digested).

I rode my bike down from the park on top (you need a permit to park a car down here) and walked south as far as I could go with today's tide, since the east end of the beach is marked by a large promontory of Pleistocene sediments that have managed somehow to resist the waves and stand like a prow to mid-tide. This is highly unusual on the Sound - suggesting an incredibly durable lithology and/or a more complicated story (which is usually the case, isn't it?)

This place deserves a return trip at a lower tide and with more hours left in the day.

By the way, the instrument tower at the point is a good place to check for wind conditions on the Sound:
Station WPOW1 : West Point

As of this little addendum on Monday evening (11-16-09), air pressure is dropping with another storm coming in -- high winds anticipated