Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Pigeon Creek Beach

Here's a nice example of a small beach project that almost no one knows about. It's an artificial gravel beach at a hard-to-find public access on Everett's industrial waterfront. The initial project was done in conjunction with an outfall in the very early 2000s and then was revisited a few years ago.


The beach lies in a corner created by the railroad grade and the large projecting fill associated with the Port of Everett. While the orientation is favorable to maintain some sort of beach, they've had problems here maintaining a sustainable profile. I suspect they need smaller gravel and more room - the latter of which may simply not be possible on this site. It's not just the geometry of the upland, but also the proximity of Pigeon Creek, which would be a constant sink for sediment were the beach to extend much farther west.

I actually think there's a nice location for another beach just around the corner to the north - maybe toss in a few thousand cubic yards of sandy gravel and let it sort itself out.

Marine View Drive

The Dick Gilmur Shoreline Access point is located along Marine View Drive on the north side of Commencement Bay, on the way out towards Browns Point. It's a relatively recent soft shore project intended to restore a more natural beach while also allowing for a small parking area and kayak launch.


One of the questions that keeps coming up for me is how to catalog and disseminate information about the large number of soft shore and beach restoration projects going on around Puget Sound. Overall, it's a remarkably positive story that needs to be told. It would provide people with design ideas and inspiration to do more projects and to do them better. It might provide an inventory from which people could choose sites for monitoring, for documentation, or simply for visiting.

But this has proven difficult. The number of projects is large, but they vary enormously and there is much disagreement about what types of projects should be included and how to assess performance. Many are poorly known and poorly documented. There is sensitivity among funders and landowners and contractors about possible problems and this makes it difficult to discuss the less successful projects (or more commonly, successful projects with unsuccessful elements), even if those are the ones we would all learn the most from.

West of Twin Rivers

The shore platform along parts of the western Strait of Juan de Fuca is etched with large arcuate features often 100's of meters across. I recall first seeing these in air photos decades ago and a number of colleagues have mentioned them over the years. This was my first chance to get out and see some of the better examples at a good low tide.


This happens to be a coastline marked by numerous large, deep-seated landslides and these arcs seem to be consistent with the offshore extension of many of these. The features consist of narrow ridges of boulders that curve out from the shoreline across a very broad, flat, and often fine grained erosional surface.

Boulder arcs have been described or show up in photos of coastal landslides in other parts of the world and I can think of one smaller example on Hood Canal (Termination Point), but I haven't seen a good discussion of the mechanism by which they form. Particle segregation can occur in large slides and debris flows. The slide may bulldoze large boulders as it moves. And there could be additional ways in which a boulder lag like this might be concentrated in this way.

This would be a fun topic to discuss further, but I've got neither the time nor the knowledge to do with this well. But it was great to actually see them up close and it was fun to participate in a discussion of how they might have been created and whether they might have been used, or even modified, by Native Americans.


Dungeness Spit is built from sand and gravel that has been delivered to its base by waves for millennia. That sediment had to come from somewhere and that happens to be a long reach of high, eroding bluffs to the west.

But bluff erosion has implications. Erosion results in the gradual, though jerky, retreat of the top edge of the bluff. We talk of retreating from eroding shorelines, and we should, but this is just a reminder that retreating is one thing if you have wheels or legs, but not quite so easy if you have a foundation or otherwise lack mobility. In which case, we often abandon instead of retreat.

In the case of a small gravel parking lot and a wooden fence, this may not be a big deal, but if it's houses and hotels and highways, it is both a societal and a practical mess. This is not a new challenge - but it's a challenge that may overwhelm us in the next century.

Burfoot Park

Having finally caught up on our early summer Scandinavian trip, I find I've got a backlog of more local beaches from July. I'm going to try to crank out several short posts and see if I can catch up before heading off for B.C. this weekend.

This is a nice example of how easy it is to bury a beach under fill - and hints at how easy it might be to restore some beaches. It also underscores the point that on a lot of sites, it's the fill as much as the armor that is the problem. We focus on removing armor, or softening it, but ignore the culprit, which is that we buried the beach to create a lawn or a parking lot. Sometimes those things are necessary; sometimes they are not. But if you don't need the fill, you often don't need the armor.


Here, I suspect the existing beach access (a road down the bluff that doesn't show well in the photos) could be maintained with a very small landing, a ramp, and maybe some steps.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Tropical Beach

Really, that's what this beach in Helsingborg is called, although it's also referred to as Parapeten (which I believe is what they call the breakwater that forms this part of the harbor). Tropical Beach reflects the beach cafe, the thatched roof, and maybe some wishful thinking. But on a sunny evening (I found it very early on a gray morning), I imagine it's quite popular.

I had gone for a walk - contemplating the reality of being back in Seattle by the end of the day - down to the waterfront. A constant stream of ferries were heading in and out, making the relatively short trip across to Denmark.


Tropical Beach is tucked into a corner, adjacent to the northern jetty. I wondered if it could have been built out of sediment dredged from the harbor mouth, but it sounds like it may represent a natural accumulation of material against the jetty (given the orientation, it seems that waves would tend to move sediment in this direction).

According to the internet (where else but Wikipedia?), while the beach may have begun forming when the Parapeten was constructed in the late 1800s, the Tropical Beach theme dates back to a 1999 exposition of some sort.

If you search for information about Tropical Beach online, you discover that some people have no sense of humor. Suggesting that this place misrepresents itself seems to miss the whole point. I thought it was a great last beach on our Scandinavian adventure (if you don't count a couple in Iceland we saw from the airplane later the same day).


This long stretch of beach lies along Laholm Bay (and the Kattegat), around the mouth of the Lagan River. It's more of your classic sandy beach. Glacial and bedrock influences were much less evident than on most of the beaches we'd visited in the past few weeks. And the beach was much more extensive (it runs at least 10-15 miles along the shore).


The beach is backed by a broad swath of low dunes and the development looks much like modest residential beach communities elsewhere. We only visited one beach access point, but at least here, the homes all seemed to be well back from the shore. I have no idea if this is planned or fortuitous.

The strandline was marked by windrows of seagrass(?) and seashells.

I thought this might be the last beach of our trip, but as it turned out, I discovered another the next morning (next post).

Monday, August 06, 2018


We spent about 24 hours in Sweden, which was just enough time for a few stops along its west coast. The first was Fjallbacka, where we hiked up to the overlook above town. No beaches - just an undulating granitic (or something similar) landscape emerging from the sea.

Aerial imagery show some small pocket beaches in the general area, although you have to look pretty hard to find them. As ever, for beaches, you need both sediment and a place to keep it. In a glaciated landscape like this, any grus weathered or scraped from the granite was probably carried away by the ice - save for small patches where topography and waves conspire to retain it.


I'd added this beach to my list months ago. It had sort of jumped off the map when I was exploring trip options on Google, perhaps because there simply weren't that many beaches to choose from. We were staying in Kristiansund for two days and I knew we'd be checking out the Atlantic Road (Atlanterhavsveien). Farstad was just a few more kilometers farther down the coast and seemed like a good lunch stop before turning around and heading back.


The beach is a crescent-shaped kilometer of sand, bracketed by a stream mouth at one end and a boulder moraine at the other. I suspect the stream is the source of the sand, since it drains a fairly substantial valley and once it hits the ocean, there's not much place for the sediment to go besides onto the beach and into the small dune field.

The presence of a few large boulders on the beach indicate that the original glacial surface doesn't lie far beneath the sand. These boulders are unlikely to have been moved here by waves (if they were, I wouldn't want to have been nearby). They were most likely already here and the beach simply built around them.

According to the sign, this is the "world's northernmost sand dune region of the southern variety." I'll take their word for it, even if I'm not quite sure what that means.

This was my favorite beach of the trip.

There are a lot more pictures from our Norway trip on my hshipman blog. Here's the link to Farstad, but if you want the whole trip (60 posts!), you can try:
hshipman: Scandinavia 2018


The village of Alnes and the Alnes Fyr (lighthouse) are located on a small peninsula on the north side of Godøya, an island west of Ålesund. The island consists primarily of a sharp 500m peak called Storhornet (which would be cool to visit - it looks like there is a large lake perched practically on top).


This small sandy beach faces the open Atlantic. There's a cobble berm hiding beneath the back of the beach, at the edge of the dunes, that probably records big winter storms - which must be pretty spectacular here. As at all the beaches we've seen in Norway, the largest boulders probably have glacial origins.

Part of my fascination with this place was that we drove here from Ålesund in less than 30 minutes, much of it in very long, very deep tunnels.

Alnes is hidden on the far side of Godøya, the island in the distance. You can't see the road because it's 150m below sea level.


Okay, this entry is not a beach, but that's the point. Fjords, particularly iconic Norwegian fjords like Geirangerfjord, are not good places to find beaches. The steep rocky cliffs plunge directly into deep water, leaving little real estate on which beaches can form. The bedrock may have yielded sediment while glaciated, but that material was all transported far away -- any that was left behind is probably sitting at the bottom of the fjord.

Sunday, August 05, 2018


Hjelle is located at the upper end of Oppstrynsvatnet, a lake that stretches 10 km or so in this narrow glacially formed valley. I think the Norwegians would recognize this as a fjord, even though the water is not marine.

I noticed this beach from our hotel and after dinner, I wandered down the road to check it out. The beach lies on the shoreward edge of narrow forested foreland that I suspect records the gradual accretion of this beach. Behind this, the mountains rise quickly. The beach is oriented into the major axis of the lake and I imagine that it acts as a swash-aligned pocket beach, slowly accumulating sediment.

AERIAL VIEW (this narrow beach is completely lost in the shadows in the Google imagery)

There were many small berms, recording a series of water levels and wave conditions. Lakes often have complex outlets - natural and engineered - and I have no idea what controls the elevation of this one. I suspect that wave setup when the wind is blowing can also affect lake levels, but again, I'm not sure how much of an effect it might have here.

This sediment color and texture on this beach was quite different than another small beach just to the north (photo below), which is nearer the mouth of one of the rivers that drains into the lake, and I suspect the reddish sediment has different origins. Whereas the beach below is likely derived from stream sediment, the coarser sand and gravel on the beach in the earlier photos may be more locally derived, probably from the steep uplands behind the beach.

The beach in the earlier photos is below the trees in the distance - not far away, but perhaps a different beach system.