Spring weather, low tides and calmer seas brings opportunities for people to comb the beaches of Oregon’s South Coast for a variety of ocean-originated or transported treasures.
Each year, beachcombers are attracted to Curry County beaches such as Winchuck, Whaleshead and Nesika looking for everything under the sun – agate to zoophyte (an animal, as a coral or sponge, that looks or grows somewhat like a plant).
There’s a ton of driftwood, much of it burl or twisty wood, to be had, too.
And of course, there’s a copious amount of seashells as well.
Beachcombing novices don’t need to memorize a long list of instructions to get started. All that’s really needed are four things.
First is a motivated individual who’s capable of walking on the beach. Second, is the beach itself. Third is something in which to haul your loot off the beach – such as a bag, sack or backpack. Finally, when beachcombing, it’s essential to pay close attention to the tides. Therefore, obtain a tide table. If you aren’t sure how to read the tide table itself, ask someone who does for a quick lesson.
The importance of knowing the tides is critical because far more territory can be covered at low tide than during high tide. Extremely low tides, expected this weekend, give beachcombers access to offshore areas that are typically submerged and that are home to productive tidepool areas.
Pay attention when an extremely high tide is expected. The erosive action of extra-high tides may unearth treasures that have long been buried under tons of sand.
Finds from the beach can be separated into four separate categories – man-made objects, wood, rocks and minerals, and the remains of animals like shells and bones, or in the case of coral, an entire skeleton.
Each category has its own particular allure. Some beachcombers go crazy when they find a buoy. For others it’s an arrowhead that gets them excited. Birds-eye redwood burl and banded agates are popular finds, and fairly common as well. Less frequent discoveries include nautilus snail shells, glass floats for fishing nets, elkshorn coral, and walrus tusk.
Where to look
If you are hunting for curly driftwood for your planter box, for example, the best place to look is near the mouth of a river or stream. The next best place to find wood is high up on sand beaches, near the base of dunes or cliffs.
Shells can be found on any beach, but to find the biggest and best stick to the following guidelines. On sandy beaches, such as Winchuck or Whaleshead, look for shells near boulders and exposed gravel deposits. Shells entangled in seaweed and kelp that wash up about half way to sand slope as well. If the beach is topped with brush or low-branched trees, look there because the largest shells end up highest on the slope.
Headlands such as Chetco Point in Brookings, Point St. George in Crescent City and Nellies Point in Port Orford are very productive shell-bearing areas. There, you may find oyster, abalone, mussel, sea snail and scallop hidden in various nooks and crannies throughout the rocks.