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What is the Difference Between High Surf and King Tides?

What is the Difference Between High Surf and King Tides?

Mon, Dec 20, 2021

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Photo courtesy of Linda Prefontaine, 2021

We recently published answers to Our Most Frequently Asked Questions About Winter Storm Watching , but we thought we’d dive in a little deeper to explain the difference between High Surf and King Tides (this is understandably a confusing issue).

What are King Tides? The King Tides are winter’s highest tide sequences on the Oregon Coast, and they occur when the Earth, moon, and sun are aligned to produce the greatest tidal effects of the year. The next round of dates for this year’s King Tides are January 1-3, 2022.

How is a King Tide Different from a Normal High Tide? King Tides bring unusually high water levels, and they can cause local tidal flooding. King tides preview how sea-level rise will affect coastal places.

What’s a “High Surf” Warning? A High Surf warning goes into effect by the National Weather Service (NWS) when a weather system off the coast is likely to come ashore and bring flooding, dangerous surf, and high winds. These conditions are usually optimal for winter storm watching when Pacific storms cause ocean swells of 16 to 35 feet or higher, which often lead to a magnificent show as they crash into the rugged cliffs of our coastline.

Do King Tides Cause High Surf Conditions? No. A King Tide without the High Surf is just a lot of water that is higher in the waterways of the area than a normal high tide. A High Surf can be combined with a King Tide but this happens on rare occasions. When such does happen, however, the wave action at Shore Acres State Park can be awe-inspiring and will bring photographers and visitors out in droves. We will post on our Facebook page anytime we have a High Surf Advisory or Warning. If they happen to coincide with a King Tide, we’ll note that too!

Some visitors come to the coast during King Tides in hopes of seeing a spectacular winter storm, while others come as “citizen scientists” to photograph and document the effects of the high tides for the Oregon King Tides Project , now in its 12th year. While it is always amazing to be on the coast during a King Tide or any other time, we want to ensure our visitors are not disappointed that there may not be storm watching opportunities at the same time.

You can find tips and suggestions online at the Oregon King Tides website . To learn more about King Tides, click here. Remember, never turn your back to the ocean and stay away from surf zones and jetties, as these can be especially dangerous during a winter storm. Beaches may become hazardous due to dangerous surf conditions.

Don’t forget, we’re offering visitors 15% off lodging at participating properties from January 1st, 2022 through February 28, 2022 for Storm Watching Season!

Here are some additional resources to help you plan your next adventure on Oregon’s Adventure Coast: Coos Bay, North Bend, Charleston, Oregon.

There is an adventure for everyone on Oregon’s Adventure Coast. Learn more about vacation ideas on our site, or contact us for help planning your next trip or family getaway. Click here for directions and other important travel tips, or contact one of our friendly volunteers at the Coos Bay Visitor Information Center on Oregon’s Adventure Coast and start planning your trip today!


Editor’s Note: As the developments in Coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to unfold, please follow the direction of our public health authorities, including the CDC, Oregon Health Authority, and Coos Health & Wellness, to protect yourself, our community and our visitors.

If you are ready to travel, we are ready to welcome you back to Oregon’s Adventure Coast. However, if you are feeling ill or not comfortable traveling right now, we encourage you to stay home and stay healthy. Let’s all do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Click here for more information.


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(541) 269-0215
50 Central Ave, Coos Bay, OR 97420

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