Spring and summer’s return of midday minus tides should make for fascinating beach excursions this weekend and throughout the season.
In Bellingham Bay, there’s a minus 1-foot, 3-inch low tide at 2:01 p.m. Thursday, May 21, and a minus 8-inch tide at 2:47 p.m. Friday, May 22. Low tide is zero at 3:34 p.m. Saturday, May 23.
Other beaches around the region, including Chuckanut Bay and Birch Bay, will see ebb tides of similar times and heights.
Extreme low tides for Bellingham Bay return the week of June 2-8; June 13-20; June 28-July 6; July 11-19; and July 27-Aug. 3.
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Check the forecast at Protides.com for times and heights at various locations around the state and the rest of North America. Toggle through the calendar to see low times several months in advance.
If you have a smartphone or tablet, look in the app store for “Rise,” a tide chart that also has sun and moon forecasts. You can customize it for your favorite coastal sites.
Good locations for low-tide exploration in Whatcom County are Larrabee State Park south of Bellingham, Point Whitehorn west of Ferndale. and Marine Park in Fairhaven.
Wildcat Cove at Larrabee State Park is accessed via a short trail and features a rocky shore with sea stars, nudibranchs, anemones and crustaceans. Marine Park boasts a bed of live sand dollars and has barnacles that are fascinating to watch. Point Whitehorn has anemones, crustaceans and sea grasses, along with stunning views.
Entrance to state parks requires a $30 seasonal Discover Pass or a $10 day-use fee. Marine Park and Point Whitehorn are free.
For help identifying the creatures you see, go to the Marine Life Center in the Port of Bellingham complex at 1801 Roeder Ave. The center has small aquariums, a large tide pool tank, and a small touch tank that feature creatures of the Salish Sea. It’s open free daily at 10 a.m., closing at 5 p.m. through May and at 6 p.m. in the summer months. For more information, go online to marinelifecenter.org or call 360-671-2431.
On Whidbey Island, the rugged shoreline at Rosario Beach in Deception Pass State Park offers excellent tide pooling. For a park map and to download pages for a Tidepool Discovery Hunt, go to deceptionpassfoundation.org/around-the-park/rosario.
In coastal Skagit County, the Breazeale Interpretive Center at the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve — a free nature center with aquariums and displays focusing on the natural history of the Salish Sea — offers several free Beach Seine and Mud Flat Safaris to study intertidal life.
For Beach Seines, participants and naturalists drag a net through the intertidal zone to trap fish and other creatures that they examine before releasing. Mud Flat Safaris are guided tours of the expansive eelgrass meadows exposed at extreme low tides.
Find a list of dates and times for these programs online at padillabay.gov/calendarofevents.asp, or call 360-428-1558. Mud Flat Safaris require advance registration. No registration is required for Beach Seines.
Of course, you can always take your own mudflat safari at any local beach. Remember to dress for the weather and that temperatures can be much cooler on the coast. For your feet, wear old lace-up shoes that can get wet, or snug-fitting rubber boots that won’t pull of as you slog through the muck. It’s handy to bring a change of clothes and separate set of shoes for the drive.