Out on the Washington Coast, where the crashing waves of the Pacific meet the sandy shores, a truly Pacific Northwest experience is awaiting your family adventure. On the north beach of Grays Harbor, the razor clam digging season is your best bet for a memorable, beautiful and delicious trip to the coast. Offering plenty of amenities, as well as some of the best clam digging in the country, clamming on the beaches of Grays Harbor will have you coming back year after year for this awesome, family-friendly activity. Before you load up the car and drive to the sandy shores, there are a few things you need to know in order to have a fun, safe and legal clam dig.
Where and When to Go Clamming
There are five areas in Washington State to go clam digging, with the full list of clamming dates, best tides and open beaches found on the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) website. It is important to know that most clam digging dates are centered around the lowest tides of the year. During the fall and winter digging dates, low tides most often take place in the dark, when it will probably be rainy and cold. Conversely, spring tides allow for daylight clam digging with a potential for better weather. However, most serious clammers will dig during the fall and winter season. When you are out clamming, remember to always follow all rules and regulations about clam digging and driving on the beach.
While there are five razor clam digging regions in Washington State, your best bet for an amazing weekend of clam digging can be found at the following spots:
- The Copalis Beach region stretches from the north jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor in Ocean Shores, Washington, all the way north to the Copalis River.
- The Mocrocks region sits between the Copalis River at the south boundary and runs north until it reaches the boundary of the Quinault Indian Reservation.
- The Kalaloch region runs from the South Beach Campground all the way north to Olympic National Park’s Beach Trail 3. Keep in mind that this beach is often closed to harvest
How to Find a Clam
If you want to be successful on your family’s clam digging adventure, you should plan to start digging about an hour before low tide. Starting early allows you to follow the receding tide, giving better views of clams and their activities.
To spot where clams are, you will see one of three marks in the sand that are from clams: a dimple, which is a depression in the sand; a doughnut, which has a small hole and raised sides; and a keyhole, which usually occurs in drier sand and looks like an hourglass or hole. A general rule of thumb is that the larger sized holes indicate larger clams, but this is not always 100% the case.
Once you see what you think will be a razor clam, you’ll need to be fast with your digging, as razor clams burrow quite quickly in soft, watery sand. After you have successfully retrieved your clam, be careful as you grab it; their shells are the reason they are called “razor” clams.
What to Bring
Without a permit, you can’t legally go clam digging. Everyone in your party who is 15 years old or older is required to have a license to harvest razor clams on any beach. The licenses for clamming can be purchased on WDFW’s website or from license vendors found all around the state. You can choose a license based on how long you plan on going clamming this season, with options ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination clamming and fishing license.
Once you have the licenses for your friends and family, there are a few rules to clam digging that need to be followed. First, each clam digger is allowed to take up to 15 razor clams per day. You are legally required to keep the first 15 razor clams you dig, no matter the size or condition. The clams also must be placed in a container, which each individual clammer must carry. Combining containers is a violation of the rules and regulations and you will more than likely get ticketed if caught.
To dig a clam out of the sand, you have two main options. Your two choices are between using a shovel or a clam “gun.” Beginning clam diggers should use a clam gun, which is a metal or PVC tube that you twist into the ground and pull out the sand all around the clam. This is the easiest and simplest method of getting your limit of razor clams, but still will take some getting used to. Advanced clam diggers use shovels, but digging for razor clams with a shovel requires patience and practice before you can use them quickly and effectively. For tips and videos on how to use both a shovel and clam gun, head over to the WDFW website, which also has great clamming advice.
Be smart, safe, warm and dry by layering your clothes, making sure to include a sturdy pair of rubber boots, good rain pants, a warm hat and a trusty rain jacket. By layering your gear, you will be ready to take off some layers just in case the weather gets nicer. Always assume it will be wet and cold, though. Do not head out unprepared. You also need to bring a lantern or headlamp, as there are no street lights along the beach.
Where to Stay
One of the best places to stay for your clam digging adventure on the North Beach of Grays Harbor is the Ocean Crest Resort. Perched upon the bluff overlooking the ocean, this place is truly breathtaking. Offering incredible food, the best wines in the region and quick access to the region’s clamming beaches, it is hard to beat the Ocean Crest. Also in the region are the fantastic lodging accommodations at Seabrook. With incredible cottage rentals, this small community right above the beach is a perfect basecamp for clam diggers looking for a fun family destination or a romantic getaway.
Find more things to do when visiting Grays Harbor County by clicking here.