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King tides to swell this weekend

Guided walks offer chance to see highest tides of the year

Guided walks to view king tides, which only happen a few days in the winter, are taking place at the Palo Alto Baylands on Jan. 11-12. Photo by Sammy Dallal.

Christmas marked the first king tide day of the year and provided nature enthusiasts with the opportunity to see species that are rarely spotted. King tides, which can be over 2 feet higher than the average tide, occur when the orbits and alignment of the Earth, sun and moon combine.

This weekend, there will be two king tide walks at the Palo Alto Baylands this Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 11-12. One is sponsored by the nonprofit Environmental Volunteers and the other by city of Palo Alto Naturalist Corinne DeBra. These tides only happen a few days in the winter and can reach or exceed 9 feet, more than enough to flood parts of the Baylands.

"You're more likely to see things you don't normally see," DeBra said. "It's an exciting time to look for endangered species."

Both guided walks will stop at certain sites that provide the best views to admire the king tide and learn about tidal systems.

Environmental Volunteers Communications Manager Jacqueline Steenhuis spoke with the Weekly about why people should come out and enjoy the outdoors.

"It's interesting to see a high high-tide and a low low-tide because we live in a tidal area and we're not really connected to it," Steenhuis said. "The king tides are so distinct making it special to see."

Steenhuis said the spot where the king tides are most notable is near the Environmental Volunteers EcoCenter, where the water comes up past the banks and floods the path leading to the building. The Environmental Volunteers-hosted walk will be led by trained volunteers who will explain what king tide walks are, how they affect the marsh and point out species such as egrets, ducks and sparrows.

The king tide walk the following day will be led by DeBra, who has hosted these walks for the past four years. The walk will start at the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center add head towards the sailing station, where visitors will have the best views to observe the king tides.

According to DeBra, birds are among the easiest species to watch, and the guided walks are a chance to have an expert point things out for the non-bird watcher. Some birds build nests that are used to float on the water during high tide.

King tides are a recurring event, which allows some species to adapt; those that don't are often endangered.

The infrequent high tides reveal the uneven impact of sea level changes.

"The rise in sea levels is not happening evenly everywhere, not affecting everyone the same way," DeBra said.

Even in the Palo Alto Baylands, there are parts that are affected more than others.

"This is an opportunity to see with your own eyes what a rise of 2 feet, of 3 feet means; there's no substitute to experiencing this yourself and getting out in nature," DeBra said.

DeBra recommends people dress in layers and a warm/rainproof jacket and bring water and a snack. The walk will be on both paved and unpaved surfaces near the water's edge. She also suggests wearing comfortable shoes.

The guided walks will take place at the following times and locations:

Environmental Volunteers EcoCenter

Saturday, Jan. 11

11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Located at 2560 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto

Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center

Sunday, Jan. 12

Noon-1:30 p.m.

Located at 2775 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto

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