PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Seasonal king tides are set to swamp Pacific Northwest beaches from November to February and a coastal Washington town is encouraging big wave enthusiasts to watch the 20-foot breakers slam the coastline from the safety of its 60-foot observation tower.

With the first bulging tide of the season nearly a week away, the City of Westport, Washington is aiming for king tide tourism. Westport Marina District manager Molly Bold told KOIN 6 News that the harbor channel’s observation tower was built in 2011 with the idea that visitors can enjoy the passing ships. However, the lookout has unexpectedly become a popular location for thrill seekers to witness the immense power of the region’s annual king tides.

“It’s a pretty spectacular view,” Bold said. “As king tide interest has grown, it has become a real attraction for people to come in and see all the action.”

  • tower
  • Westport
  • observation tower

Since 1980, global sea levels have risen 8 to 9 inches, on average, as the planet continues to warm — melting more and more of the Earth’s ice sheets and glaciers. The rising sea levels are especially notable during king tides — the highest tides of the year. 

King tides, also known as spring tides, occur when the alignment of the sun and moon combine to add extra pull on the Earth, causing its oceans to swell by more than 10 feet in some areas. Scientists use these heightened tides to determine the future impacts sea level rise could have on coastal cities.

While people find the waves are exhilarating to watch, the City of Westport warns that king tides are especially dangerous. Wave watchers are strongly advised to keep a safe distance from the jetties as the powerful breakers can carry heavy objects like logs or knock down unsuspecting victims and sweep them into the icy, turbulent waters.

“King tides are incredible to watch, but you must be very careful when viewing such extreme conditions,” the City of Westport warns. “We recommend watching from the observation tower at the Westport Marina.”

Getting to the tower can also be hazardous during a king tide event. Although the city encourages visitors to check out the tower, people are cautioned to park a safe distance from the jetties and always keep an eye on the ocean. 

“You must be cautious when approaching the tower, as waves and debris may come over the rock wall and rush past the tower and into the street,” the City of Westport states. “We do not recommend watching from the Light Trail at the marina, as waves can crash unexpectedly over the seawall causing great harm as it carries logs and other ocean debris, along with the sheer power of the ocean.”

The dune at Westhaven State Park is also an excellent sport for viewing the waves, the city said.

Oregon’s 2023- 2024 king tide forecast:

  • November 25 – 27, 2023
  • December 13 – 15, 2023
  • January 11 – 13, 2024 
  • February 8-10, 2024