tide/current question...

…Calling all coastal paddlers! I often see advice to “paddle with the tide” or “ride the tide.” I suppose we assume that current direction reverses with the tide changes. Most of my paddling is in very flat tidal wetland areas, and while the water level certainly goes up and down, I never notice much difference in current direction. In some stretches it seems to always flow the same direction regardless of whether the tide is going in or out. Does elevation change “overrule” tide in determining current direction?

Tidal currents
Actually, it’s a lot more complicated than just elevation. Bottom topography, islands, narrows, rocks, etc, all affect the strength of the currents.

The tidal range in your area also has a huge effect on current strength. One of the places I like to paddle is the mid to downeast coast of Maine, and the tidal range is 8 - 16 feet depending on how far east you go (It gets bigger as you go further east). If you paddle in Cobscook Bay, the currents are as strong as paddling in whitewater.

So the answer is that current strength varies widely, given a number of factors.


My experience
in paddling MD and VA is that the deeper the water the more noticable the current. THe shallow areas seem to fill and empty more slowly, so there is a lag behind the flood and ebb.

What I notice more in the shallows is the effect of wind pushing water to one end of a bay.


It depends on where you are paddling
If in your area there is only a one or two foot tide, there will hardly be any flow at all. On the other hand if you are up in the Bay of Fundy, or up in Ak where there are 15 foot tides, then you will have a tremendous flow.



well addressed so far the other eliment that will effect a tide in a given area would be weather . If it’s been blowin 20 knts. from the S fer the past few days the ebb on the river I paddle will be greatly deminished , even though the given times from a tide book state mean times . Local knowledge is best , and not always useful from the power folks . Thier perspective is different . I know a # o places that do NOT conform to tide tables due to bottom conditions , from the 10K Is. to the Bay o Fundy . Ride with it half the way then it’s in yer face the other . We seem to have a problem w/the natural world and our “rules” . Hope it helps some , happy paddlin !

Pacific Northwest…
If we paddle tidal rivers here, we go in with the tide. When the tide changes, we turn around and come back out with it. When the tide is out…you ain’t gonna move…there ain’t enough water. You,ll be waiting on a mud flat somewhere for the tide to come back in. That could take several unpleasant hours. If you’re planning a stay upriver, its no problem, if not you’d best know the times of high and low tides before setting out.

Squarehead [:-]

you can get a tides tables book from stores such as boaters world which will give tide changes ,velocity, and slack periods for your area. tides are greatly effected by moon phase ,full and dark periods being the strongest. as others; the less variation in tidal rise and fall the farther south you are . be careful in channels as they narrow and cause the tide to flow through them faster.