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Answers To Frequently Asked Questions About Oregon's Beaches

Each year, Destination Experts and other regular posters field the same questions regarding beaches along the Oregon Coast. This post is NOT a complete beach information/safety guide but rather is meant as a guide to visitors explaining the answers to the most frequently asked questions.

BEACH ACCESS

The 1967 landmark Oregon Beach Bill declares that ALL "wet sand" within sixteen vertical feet of the low tide line belongs to the state of Oregon. In addition, it recognizes public easements of ALL beach areas up to the statutory vegetation line, which is an ACTUAL surveyed line with legal coordinates, regardless of underlying property rights. The public has "free and uninterrupted use of the beaches," and property owners are required to seek state permits for building and other uses of the ocean shore. While some parts of the beach remain privately owned, state and federal courts have upheld Oregon’s right to regulate development of those lands and preserve north/south public access.

The Beach Bill does not, however, guarantee public ACCESS (east/west travel) TO the Ocean Shore Recreation Area (beach). In other words, just because the beaches are preserved in the public's interest, it DOES NOT mean that it is okay to trespass across private property to gain access to the beach. Instead, look for public parks and designated public easements.

Here is a link with all of the laws governing beaches in Oregon:

oregon.gov/OPRD/RULES/Pages/oceanshores.aspx

TIDES

Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and to a lesser exent the Sun and the rotation of the Earth. The larger the phase of the moon, the more dramatic the tidal fluctuation will be.

In Oregon, the time between high and low tide is roughly 6 hrs. When tidepooling, it is generally recommended, for optimal viewing, that a person be at the tide pools at least 2 hrs before actual low tide. Looking at the chart below, you will notice that the lowest tides are generally in the morning hours, so that can be challenging! Just remember to give yourself as much time as you possibly can, never lose focus or turn your back on the ocean, wear sturdy shoes and be off of the tide pools at or before the listed low tide, because when the tide turns, it turns QUICKLY!!

It is also important to note that, while tides are usually the largest source of short-term sea-level fluctuations, sea levels are also subject to forces such as wind and barometric pressure changes, resulting in what is known as a storm surge, especially in shallow seas and near coasts. These storm surges can dramatically change the actual height of the estimated times printed in the tide tables.

Below is a link to tide charts for the Oregon Coast. Please remember these are estimates only:

saltwatertides.com/dynamic.dir/oregonsites.h…

RIP CURRENTS

While the Pacific Ocean off of the Oregon Coast is generally considered to be too cold for swimming (~45-54 degrees F), many still do. If you chose to swim, or wade above waist deep in the ocean, please be aware of these dangerous currents. Emergency Responders in Oregon estimate that over 80% of all water rescues. are rip current related.

As waves travel from deep to shallow water, they break near the shore. Some areas will have a stronger break than others and this causes a circulation that causes a rip current, or strong narrow outflow back to the ocean depths. Moving at 1-2 feet per second, even the most powerful swimmer will not be able to overcome these forces

Before entering the ocean, look for these tell-tale signs that rip current is present and stay FAR way:

-A channel of churning, choppy water

-An area having a notable difference in water color

-A line of foam or seaweed moving steadily out to sea

-A break in the incoming wave pattern or waves coming onto the beach at an angle

If you do find yourself caught in a rip current, DO NOT try and swim against it! Instead, try swimming parallel to the beach for some distance then try and swim back to shore.