Clamming in Ocean Shores, Wa.
New experiences await for those who seek Northwest tradition at the Peninsula’s end. At the south western end of one of North America’s greatest National Forests lies Ocean Shores, Washington, where foraging for Pacific Razor Clams (Siliqua patula) is king.
If you are looking for true Pacific Northwest tradition, look no further. Clamming on intermediately cloudy beaches off Damon Pointe is as Northwest as waxed mustaches, plaid shirts, and craft roasted coffee.
But more than that, it’s an absolute blast. It’s hard not to get embarrassingly exuberant about digging for these modestly large-shelled creatures in the wet and ever changing sands along the cold Pacific. In true Northwest fashion, this activity is best enjoyed in thigh-high waders, water resistant jackets, and sounds headwear. Cold hands be damned…clams are life!
I had personally never been “clamming” before. After a decade of being a vegetarian, I had no idea what to fully expect. I tend to shy away from activities that I don’t have some moderate levels of skill in, but delving into salty waves and sandy depths for these mysterious creatures seemed as natural to my Washington blood as learning to ignore local weather predictions.
With only a short lesson in identifying small doughnut-shaped breathing holes or spouts of water, finding clams quickly became a well rehearsed skill. At times, plunging our homemade clam cannons into the sand was easy, at others it took a little more effort while bracing for shellfish stealing rogue waves. But the reward was always worth it. Each and every successful harvest was met by celebration from all. Old friends sharing mutual excitement for each person’s share of the feast to follow.
Plunging and twisting, twisting and pulling– one by one we met our daily allotments, waiting for dry clothes and the warming shelter of our Air B&B beach house. We returned to base not as tourists, but as the salt of the earth fishermen and women you might find adorn a box of fish sticks. Oh yes, we were true Northwesterners now.
One unexpected reward of our time in Ocean Shores, WA was the stark presence of a curious and enjoyable species of shorebird– the Western Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus).
The Western Snowy Plover is listed as threatened federally, and as an endangered species in the state of Washington via a decrease in population. Habitat loss and (get this) increased recreation use are the primary causes known for this population decrease. It didn’t hit me at the time, but later on I realized that I was one of the recreational users that could contribute to these troubles. Of course, this was not breeding season for the Snowy Plover, so our presence wasn’t necessarily one of disturbance. In fact, the plovers seems elated at the opportunity to scavenge upon what ever bits of clam, crabs, and insects we-the-clammers seemed to muster up. This was a true and unexpected treat for me; To see these incredible (and adorable) birds gather along the sandbars and wave-sides in numbers in the hundreds.
The town of Ocean Shores, Washington its self is quite a bit of fun to explore. We happen to be in town at what ended up being the perfect time– Saint Patricks Day weekend and during the city’s annual “Razor Clam Festival”.
What was exciting about being in Ocean Shores on Saint Patrick’s day, unbeknownst to me, was the presence of Galway Bay Irish Pub, which had a slew of celebrations planned that would please the Apostle of Ireland, himself.
The Razor Clam Festival seemed universally welcomed by all in Ocean Shores. The event included fair-style rides and jump houses, VIP auction and dinners, local restaurant specials, and a chowder competition that welcomes the participation of both amateurs and professionals.
Really it was quite the way to spend a weekend with old friends. Between warm and welcoming locals, and the near frigid conditions along the beaches (that may be a bit of over exaggeration for the purpose of making some “clever” syntax), Ocean Shores, Washington makes a guy feel down right Northwest.