The Crazy, Unknown Delights of Oregon Coast in Spring: What They Don’t Tell You
Published 04/14/2019 at 12:23 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff
(Oregon Coast) – Right after the main spring breaks for Oregon, in April and May, that’s when the really spectacular stuff happens along the Oregon coast. And yet no one bothers to tell you.
Indeed, it’s probably the most underutilized time of the year, as most people ae done with their dose of beach time after spring break and waiting for the summer to kick in. Right about now is when the some of the most intriguing secrets of the beaches take place. The lowest tides of the year, Orcas and other whales, sand that glows, weird sea foam antics and even cheaper hotels: that’s what travelers are missing.
One of the largest factors is probably the weather, which can be temperamental. But even that has its unique aspects you shouldn’t be missing out on. The end result is one of the best features of all: you have the beaches largely to yourself (although even May and April are starting to get more populated than in previous decades).
Lowest Tides of the Year. April, May and sometimes June are when the lowest tides of the year happen, sometimes dipping into minus one foot or even minus three feet. Agate beds really pop up in many places, thanks to all the tidal melee that still remains with some storms. They also disappear quickly, however. See tide tables at Oregon Coast Weather
Pyrosome photo courtesy Seaside Aquarium
Springtime Oddities, Delights. Winter-like storms are not quite done with the region yet. This was evident just recently as huge wave and wind conditions knocked a few things around. You can still get massive wave action and west winds combined, which leads to the fun and funky found on beaches in great abundance. It’s not impossible to find the real glass floats from Japan, which were so treasured for generations.
Other fun creatures include the velella velella, which really start hitting the sands in April or May. Or more of the pyrosomes that have so startled scientists in recent years. Salps – little creatures that sort of resemble jellyfish – may show up and create weird colors like pink.
Incredible Sky Colors of Spring. Arguably, spring is the most photogenic time on the Oregon coast. You more often find such ideal lighting conditions as bright sun peeking through clouds, which then lights up dark skies behind the beaches, lending some incredible contrast to scenes. More importantly, dramatic clouds and the addition of more humidity make for more amazing sunset colors. If you’ve got lots of puffy clouds on the horizon these cause some amazing things to happen, with the light bouncing between them, glowing through the varying layers and creating incredible pastels.
Subtleties abound here, with a wider array of hues than most times of the year. It’s true that winter and its colder, clearer conditions have more intensely colored sunsets (especially around the solstice), and late summer’s deep blue skies make for better daytime shots, but it’s spring that has the really startling dusks and wider range of shades. Other seasons tend to lean towards one color.
Crazy Foam and Maybe Glowing Sand. Here’s a surreal treat – or two.
With that nutty, indecisive weather of spring – a mix of squalls and storms with glorious moments of sun – the ocean gets churned up and then calms. These are the kinds of conditions that can really affect the blooms of phytoplankton and their influx to the beaches.
These tiny critters – the basic bottom of the food chain in the ocean – come in different varieties. The largest population is diatoms, which are most of the reason there is sea foam. The skeletons of their tiny bodies create all those bubbles by interacting with the air and water. That’s where all the sudsy breakers come from. Another kind, dinoflagellates, glow like fireflies do. They create the wild phenomena known as “glowing sand.”
Spring results in more diatom blooms, and is there’s the right kind of storms, this produces wild, crazy displays of foam.
Occasionally it shows up as giant globs of foam that looks like snow. It’s been known to cause massive amounts that resemble snow banks to fly across Highway 101. At the Devil’s Churn near Yachats, the formations there can create an unusual sight where blobs of the stuff can get sent flying upwards, looking like snow going the wrong direction.
If there’s lots of foam, you may find bioluminescent phytoplankton. This can cause a unique and startling effect nicknamed “glowing sand,” where you’ll see tiny, bluish / green flashes beneath your feet on a dark beach at night. You need a beach free of light sources, and then you have to scoot your feet backwards in the wet sand near the tideline. If they’re present, you’ll see the tiny twinkles. Summer and early fall, however, are even better times to catch this.
Orcas and Gray Whales. Everybody knows the big gray whale migration takes place in March, but what isn’t so well known is their journey continues well into April and it’s almost always followed by some great runs of Orcas.
Killer whales come up the Oregon coast tracking the baby gray whales for food. This is an unusual pod of killer whales which scientists don’t know much about. It results in awe-inspiring sightings throughout April, sometimes lasting well into May or early June. They’ve even been seen chasing seals through Newport’s Yaquina Bay and up the river a couple of miles.
Lodging Rates Can Dive. A lot of lodgings may have upped their prices a bit for spring break, but many host specials that make up for that. Some even drop back down. It can mean a truly cheap stay on the beach, especially on weeknights. Oregon Coast Lodgings for this event – Where to eat – Map and Virtual Tour
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