Monday, January 27, 2014

Golden Gardens

Two posts back, at Lake Quinault, I noted that beaches are easy to make.  But that doesn't mean that they are simple, that they are all the same, or that they fail to exhibit an amazing amount of small-scale spatial and temporal variability.

A late afternoon walk at Golden Gardens found lots of stuff happening - much of which will be erased within a few tide cycles. And replaced with something else.

Waves on a rising tide will sometimes leave a swash bar like this sandy one lapped up onto the beach face.  Perhaps the band of gravel at the water line was the coarse lag left behind when that rising tide pushed the sand up the beach.  Seepage from the beach face formed complex alluvial channels on the lower beach face.  A high tide gravel ridge to the north recorded the story of strong southerly waves during a recent high tide.

Meadow Point is a barrier beach that curves sharply and there are big differences as you walk from the sandy beach on the south to the gravelly one on the north. By the way, this northern beach was probably always coarser than the southern one, but the current pattern was reinforced by the gravel that was added in the mid 1990s to address the chronic erosion of the northern shore (possibly attributable to the loss of sediment from the north after the railroad was built, but that's another story).



Kalaloch, and the Olympic Coast in general, deserve a lot more attention than they're going to get here, and a lot more thought than I could generate in a very short visit.

The tide was pretty high and every few minutes a larger wave set would spill across the beach and into the stream mouth, generating a small bore that slowly worked its way upstream.  It's easy to see how large wood from the beach gets rafted into the little estuary and pushed up against the bank below the lodge.

Remarkably, this is the first trip to this section of Washington's coast since I began the blog and the only post between Washaway Beach and Tsoo-Yess Beach. Some of these areas I know fairly well and some I don't, but regardless, it's been too long.


Lake Quinault

One of the themes I've come back to in talks the last few years is the that beaches are pretty easy to create. It doesn't take unusual circumstances and it doesn't require much time. It just takes some loose sand or gravel-size sediment and enough wave action to keep it moving around. They show up in a lot of places. But they don't all look like the ones in the Corona ads, which is what makes them so interesting.

Beaches are relatively common on larger lakes where there is sufficient fetch to generate reasonable waves, at least if there is the right size of sediment to build from. But lakes don't make beaches easy. Freshwater doesn't pose the same impediments to shoreline vegetation as does saltwater, so plants thrive at the water's edge, sheltering and stabilizing sediment. And in the Northwest, I suspect most lakes, at least prior to significant development, were fringed with fallen trees and big wood, which would discourage beaches.


This beach is at the bottom of the slope below the Lake Quinault Lodge on the south shore of the lake. A small point creates a favorable orientation for a small swash-aligned beach. Of course, on lakes like this, the beach may well have been created intentionally with the clearing of vegetation and maybe even the addition of some gravel, but I'm not sure.

As far as I know, the level of Lake Quinault is not managed and simply reflects the natural ability of the outlet (the Quinault River) to pass the water that flows in from the upper watershed.  The lake can fluctuate significantly -- you can see a wrack line behind the beach where the water reached about a week earlier.  I walked a section of the lakeside trail and was impressed by the amount of big drift wood rafted into the low areas surrounding the lake.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Seahurst Park

After many years of planning, the big beach project at the north end of Seahurst Park is finally underway.  The old seawall is coming out and a new beach is going in.  Right now the beach is off limits - and pretty much obscured by big piles of gravel and rock and lots of bright orange and yellow machinery.

Here's a post from this fall, before construction started:
Seahurst, October 2013
(and from there you can link back to earlier posts)

The south end (where the beach was restored in 2005) was looking great, but was awfully empty with access to the park closed off. I actually walked in from Eagle Landing to the south. Which qualified as my exercise for the day (hshipman:  Eagle Landing).

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Maury Schwartz

Several times during the spring of 1992, I drove north to link up with Maury Schwartz's coastal class on their field trips.  It was a great introduction to Puget Sound beaches, to Maury's infectious enthusiasm, and to his favorite local bakeries.  I took this photo at Sandy Point on one of those trips.

The more I read of the literature about beaches in those years, the more I became aware of Maury's contributions to the field. It was amazing to have someone of his stature so close by.

What I recall most about my early meetings with Maury up at WWU was his good humor and has commitment to his students.  Maury was first and foremost a teacher.   I may not have been one of his students, but he was one of my best teachers.

At a practical level, Maury was instrumental in educating us all about coastal processes and drift patterns on Puget Sound.  He and his students created a foundation on which we all now stand.

Notes about Maury from:
Ian at the Coastnerd Gazette
Dan at Reading the Washington Landscape

Friday, January 10, 2014

West Seattle

This winter's highest tide was supposed to arrive at dawn last Sunday morning, but the clear cold weather came with high pressure and that meant that a tide destined for 13.2' in Seattle barely made it to 12', a modest high tide at best.

Our best high tides seem to come when weather and pressure combine to lift a less than awesome tide into the truly unexpected range.  Like December 17th, 2012, when the 12' tide reached 14.5' (Whidbey Island).  Or when an El NiƱo elevates west coast water levels for weeks, like in January 2010 (Alki).

It seems like every winter for 20 years I've headed out at daybreak in late December or early January, hoping to see the Sound overflow. It's rarely spectacular, but getting out on the beach - or maybe getting outside at all - at dawn is still pretty special.  These shots are from Sunday morning, from Harbor Ave and from Alki Beach.

This post is a bit of an experiment and one that may get revised. I'm trying to post from a new app on an iPad, rather than my conventional use of blogger on the laptop. I'll let you know!