Winds, Tides, and Weather


Bill Trandum

Bill Trandum

Spit in the ocean –– much more than a card game

Here on the Key we've got a couple of darned good spits. One that extends from what we call Wauna toward Purdy and ends at the Purdy bridge.

The Purdy Spit, which technically could be called a mole (because much is man-made) is owned by Pierce County Parks, but largely ignored. It begs for an elevated boardwalk along its southern edge facing Henderson Bay. But erecting one would be fraught with regulatory difficulties, partly because a state highway sits on top of it and partly because it's a riparian area, meaning it is a shoreline.

Another fine spit stretches between Vaughn Bay and Case Inlet, extending north from Olman Point, creating Vaughn Bay. I think it's public tideflats; so, as long as it is accessed from the water, visitors are not trespassing.

A third nice spit, but much smaller. is also on Case Inlet. It forms what locals call the Haley Lagoon and sits on property sold by the Haley family to Washington State Parks many years ago.

State park officials have never found money to develop or even put restrooms on the property. Part of the problem is that the hillside running down to the 12-acre lagoon is so unstable, it would be prohibitively expensive to put in an ADA trail to the beach from the nearest public access point on Jackson Lake Road. Hardy souls do trek down the hillside from time to time and folks visit by boat, especially by canoe and kayak in the summer. It's nothing to mess with from seaward in winter; strong southwesterly winds whip up the seas across tidal shoals and make boat landing risky business.

There are a couple of nice long, sand spits in Carr Inlet at the entrance to Mayo Cove, where the Lakebay Marina is located. One extends into the cove from Penrose Point State Park. The other is less accessible and guards the north entrance of the bay. Then there's one a bit further south: its outermost (southeastern) tip is called South Head on NOAA's nautical chart of the area.

Finally, at low tide there's a heck of a sand spit at Cutt's Island, also known as Deadman's Island in Henderson Bay, the northern part of Carr Inlet, and another at tiny McMicken Island south and west of Herron Island in Case Inlet. Both are state parks so the public has free access by sea.

In my experience, spits generally allow folks to get very close to the water while beach-combing, and spits often trap interesting chunks of driftwood and other flotsam.

Near the tip of a spit, the water is often quite deep so a boater can nose up to it without worrying too much about his or her propeller hitting the bottom. Not so along the edge of the spit; often that is quite shallow.

I'm sure there are spits I'm not aware of, so I apologize if I've missed your favorite. I will punish myself by promising to not actually spit in the ocean, which according to the State Department of Ecology would be littering.

Bill Trandum is a retired U.S. Navy captain, a guest columnist and a self-described student of all things winds, waves, weathers, tides and waters.