On Thursday, January 30, I came to
the Palo Alto Baylands to see the last of this winter's King Tides. The
King Tides are extreme high tides that occur a few times a year when
the alignment of the sun and moon result in the greatest gravitational
pull on the earth's oceans. On this day, a high tide of 9.4 feet was
predicted at 11:30 am, with a low tide of -0.8 at 7:17 pm. This is a
big change in tide. It means the tide level drops 10.2 feet in 7 hrs 47
minutes, which is an average drop of 1.3 feet per hour.
I began my hike at the EcoCenter, located at the edge of the Palo Alto
Yacht Harbor Basin. At one time, when the Yacht Harbor was an active
harbor, this was the site of a Sea Scouts base. (See the history
of the Yacht Harbor
.) The harbor, which had to be dredged every
year, filled in with silt and was closed in the 1980's. The Sea Scouts,
which were part of the Boy Scouts of America, used the ship-shaped
building at edge of the harbor from 1941 to 1991. In 2012, it was
restored and re-opened as the EcoCenter for Environmental Volunteers.
It serves as a community center for environmental education. The Sea
Scouts still operate boats, but dock them in Redwood City.
This is the Palo Alto Yacht Harbor Basin at 10:59 am, about a half hour
before the peak of the tide. This spot is next to the EcoCenter.
This is a view of the harbor from near the EcoCenter, looking towards
the water treatment plant. The San Francisco Bay Trail runs on a gravel
path around the perimeter of the harbor.
This is the tide marker at the EcoCenter at 11:02 am.
This is a view looking out over the harbor basin from the walkway at
the EcoCenter. The basin is completely full of water. Only the tops of
the tallest vegetation are sticking out.
At 11:12 am, the rising tide has inundated this section of the Bay
Trail next to the EcoCenter.
This is the park road at 11:19 am, a little before the peak of the
tide. Pipes go under the road from the harbor on the left to the lagoon
on the other side. The water level is about a foot below the road.
The building is the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center. It
is mounted on pier pilings above the marsh, which is open to the Bay.
On the left is the lagoon fed by water from the Bay through pipes under
the park road. The pipes limit the rate of water flow, so the lagoon's
water level lags behind the harbor's level.
This is the tidal marsh by the Nature Center. Note the boardwalk
crossing the marsh.
This is the marsh to the right of the Nature Center. The boardwalk is
in the distance on the left. The catwalk leading from the right runs
under the power towers.
This is the marsh to the left of the Nature Center. In the distance is
the Dumbarton Bridge.
This is the boardwalk leading from the Nature Center to the edge of the
This is the marsh under and to the right of the Nature Center.
This is the sailing station boat launching ramp at the mouth of the
yacht harbor, taken
at 11:29 am, right at the peak of the tide. The pier is fixed. The
water level is just a couple feet below it. The aluminum ramp leading
to the boat dock is nearly horizontal. The boat dock itself is floating
and slides up and down the vertical concrete post.
This bench is at the edge of the yacht harbor. You can see the boat
dock in the distance. If you were sitting here, your feet would be wet.
The water is right at the level of the trail.
Heading back along the park road, this is the marsh by the Nature
At 11:44 am, the tide is past its peak at the mouth of the harbor, but
it takes time to drain inside the harbor. The trail around the
perimeter of the harbor is flooded.
The access trail leading to the perimeter trail is also flooded.
The EcoCenter looks like it's surrounded by water.
This is the flooded trail around the harbor.
The trail leading to the EcoCenter is flooded.
This is the inside of the EcoCenter. Docents will be leading tours of
the Baylands and talking about the King Tides.
In the floor of the EcoCenter is a window showing what is under the
center: mud from the marsh, since part of the center sits over the
marsh on piers.
This is at 12:01 pm, about a half hour after the peak of the tide. This
is the access ramp to the entrance of the EcoCenter. It normally
doesn't run over the water. Note the flooded trail beyond.
From the EcoCenter, some
experienced birdwatchers spotted a pair of clapper rails in the marsh
in front of the center. They pointed them out. I didn't really see
them, but I took a picture where they were pointing. Blowing up the
picture, I can see a bird on the left and what could be a bird on the
right. Clapper rails are endangered species. They only live in
pickleweed and cordgrass marshes, are very shy, and are rarely seen.
The high tide has flushed them out of their hiding place among the
The group set out on a walk to the Nature Center. Here's the boardwalk.
In the background is the inactive Dumbarton Crossing train bridge.
This is the viewing platform at the end of the boardwalk.
The tour group sets out on the boardwalk.
This flooded channel is known as "rail alley," as clapper rails live
along it. The vegetation is high enough here that even with the extreme
tides, the birds can still hide. They are more often seen at low tide,
when they come out from the hiding places to feed along the muddy banks
of the channel.
This is the Rail Alley channel to the right of the boardwalk.
The boardwalk leads to the edge of San Francisco Bay. Waves at high
tide have washed over this part of the boardwalk, getting it wet.
It's windy here. Wind-driven waves break on the shoreline.
You can see waves washing under the boardwalk here. This was at 12:56
pm, so it was almost an hour and a half after the peak of the tide.
This was at 1:24 pm, back at yacht harbor basin, almost 2 hours after
high tide. This is the flooded section. Note how much the tide has
receded. The trail is no longer underwater, and more of the marsh
vegetation has emerged.
This is the trail to the EcoCenter, now dry.
This is the EcoCenter ramp. It no longer crosses over water. Some water
still remains beyond the trail.
This is the marsh between the EcoCenter and Water Treatment plant. What
was once almost all underwater a couple hours ago is now mostly marsh
This is the yacht harbor between the EcoCenter and Byxbee Park.
After this, I went for a ride on
the Bay Trail, around the Palo Alto
Flood Control Basin. I started at the parking lot on East Bayshore
Road, next to Pond A and B. I followed the Adobe Creek Loop Trail along
Matadero Creek, Mayfield Slough, and Adobe Creek.
This is next to the parking lot on
the Bay Trail On East Bayshore Road. The dirt spur trail ahead leads
between Ponds A and B in the Palo Alto Flood Control Basin. The
sculpture of the bicyclist is a memorial to Bill
, who was a bicycling advocate and Bay Trail board member.
This is the Emily Renzel Marsh. It
is a freshwater marsh, fed by reclaimed wastewater from the Palo Alto
Water Quality Control Plant. The water from the marsh then flows into
Matadero Creek. In the background are the hills of Byxbee Park, the
site of a former landfill. The hills are being covered with dirt and
shaped to repair ground settlement and improve stormwater drainage.
Matadero Creek flows into Mayfield Slough, which is part of the Flood
This is a wider part of Mayfield Slough.
The newly-regraded section of the Adobe Creek Loop Trail runs between
the hills of Byxbee Park and Mayfield Slough.
This is a newly-constructed rock drain in Byxbee Park.
This is the pole field at Byxbee Park. The pole field is an art
installation, reminiscent of pier pilings. The hills are dry because of
the lack of rain.
This is at 3:13 pm, looking across the yacht harbor towards the
EcoCenter. It's not the lowest tide, but it has gone out enough to
nearly completely drain the harbor basin.
The is the boat launching ramp at the entry to the harbor. Note the
water level relative to the pier, the angle of the access ramp to the
boat dock, and the height of the concrete posts above the boat dock,
compared to high tide above.
This is a view looking towards the rest area near the boat dock that
was underwater at high tide.
This is the tide gate that controls the water flow in and out of
This is a view looking towards Hooks Island on the left. The channel in
the foreground leads from the Bay to the tide gate.
This is the tidal channel between the shore and Hooks Island.
This is one of the few sections of the Bay Trail in the South Bay where
the open waters of San Francisco Bay come close to the trail.
This channel leads from the Bay to Charleston Slough.
In the background is Hangar One at Moffett Field. Below it is part of
Flocks of birds are in the Adobe Creek part of the Flood Control Basin.
In the background is the pole field at Byxbee Park.
This is the tide gate that controls the level of water in Charleston
Slough. The trail runs between Adobe Creek and Charleston Slough.
These ducks are swimming in a circle in Adobe Creek. This circling
behavior is common among ducks, but no one knows why they do it.
These avocets are wading in Charleston Slough.
This is a wide part of Adobe Creek.
These birds are in Charleston Slough. This is a view looking across the
slough towards Shoreline Amphitheatre.
These pelicans and ducks are in Adobe Creek.
This is the end of my trip on the Adobe Creek Loop Trail. The parking
lot is ahead. Pond B is on the right.
Created by Ronald Horii