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Point 4 - Public Landing No. 1

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We have two ocean access lower landings available to the public and this is the one closest to the beach. Stairs are raised and lowered according to the season. The landings are generally available April through October. During the winter months, the stairs are raised in consideration of the storms and swells that can appear unpredictably. Storms can be strong enough to pop the deck planks loose from their nailed positions requiring repair as the spring season approaches.

To assist boaters wishing to load, unload, or otherwise dock at the Wharf, we have a floating dock that rises and drops with the tide. People can climb a ladder from the attached floating dock up onto the landing. Small boats like kayaks, canoes, and inflatables may be stored on a side platform of the landing for those that moor their boats nearby at no charge.

Mooring private boats next to the Wharf is free and is safest during the spring and summer months. Mooring during winter months is not safe and a number of vessels have pulled loose and beached or sank over the years that were left moored too late into the winter season.

The landing is also an excellent place to view the structure of the Wharf. Many colorful starfish, sponges, tunicates, and shellfish can be seen living on the pilings.

Beaches & Associated Wildlife
Starting from right here, we can appreciate the diverse wildlife all around. Indeed, the intertidal zone is the most prolific zone on earth. More creatures make "their living" in it than any other place. Many are hiding beneath the sand and beneath the waves. Some, like the mole crab, live their whole lives between low and high tides. Many others appear suddenly and disappear suddenly. We have many kinds of shorebirds, gulls, and migratory seabirds. Different kinds can be seen in different seasons. Some have very short legs and bills like the sanderlings and sandpipers, some have very long legs and long bills like the godwits and willets.

The simple sands comprise a huge influence along the coast. Sand moves endlessly up and down coast in what's called "litoral drift" or the "longshore current." In winter, it gets washed out and in summer piles up into the beaches. During heavy storms and surf, the beach erodes so much you can see remnants of old wharf pilings where the stone sculpture stands at the entrance of the wharf. And after a strong winter, we can often find a new beach deposited all around the cove so that you can walk all the way to the Lighthouse Point and not even get your toes wet.

Our beaches change with the season. Not only are they very desirable for lounging and beachcombing, they are very important for modifying the affect of waves on the land and on coastal property. Essentially, the ocean has the last word about the coastline, but beaches buffer the force of the ocean waves and help maintain the coastal bluffs and property from erosion. When a beach is gone, the wave action will directly erode the shore inland.

Beaches also have their own unique subzones, with plants adapted to these zones. These plants, such as dune grass, also help hold the beaches together and keep them from blowing away. "Dune ecology" is a whole branch of study in itself.

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Waves
Other prime elements to notice here are swells, waves and surf. In fact, Cowell's Beach and Steamer Lane -- that point over there where the lighthouse is -- is a world renown sandy bottom surfing attraction. We have several national and international surfing contests here every year.

Waves are energy fronts generated far to sea by storms. These travel through water; the water itself does not move much. These energy waves travel through the deep ocean very fast. When they reach the up-sloping continental shelf, wave energy fronts start to lift into the swells curls that surfers ride.

Waves at shore, here, are different in character than waves in the deep ocean. We experience them as regular sweeps or lines one after the other. They can come in groups or sets, but generally roll evenly, one after the other to the beach. In the deep ocean, waves come and go in all directions, very choppy. The general movement is a sloppy up and down, not one after another in a line of travel, but in all directions all at once.

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Tides
The other chief force unique to the coast is the change of tide. Tide is a major change of ocean height along the shore and tide changes occur 4 times a day here.

We have two high tides and two low tides. Of these, one high tide is usually higher than the other and one low tide is usually lower than the other. We have a fancy name for this, "mixed semidiurnal tides." It's worth remembering because this is very different here on the west coast than it is on most of the east coast where the tides are mostly of the same height. This results from our wide continental shelf.

Everything about the ocean is much more fluid than land and slips to the pull of the moon. Tides are caused by the moon pulling on the water as it circles the earth. Large tides and small tides. Can change several feet up and down in a day. This is especially noticeable on the wharf pilings where you can see the marks of the high and low tides. We'll see this further on.

Life began in the sea 3.5 billion years ago and has existed on land for less than half of that. A number of life forms have emerged from the sea, developed and returned to the sea, such as "modern fishes" and the marine mammals. There are over a dozen phyla of plants and animals and only two on land. The sea affects the weather in Kansas as much as it does here. Small exchanges between the sea surface and the air in the mid Pacific cause El Niños and can affect world weather patterns.

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Last updated: 6/30/2009 4:47:55 PM