WINTER BEACHCOMBING

February 9, 2021

by Steve Alexander

Perhaps winter is not the best time to dip your toes in the briny waters of the Gulf, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid the beach this time of year. Winter is, in fact, one of the best times for beachcombing.

A Winter Beach

During December, January and February, cold fronts pass through with regularity. When they do, strong north winds push water offshore, creating wide stretches of beach that can be walked in search of treasures. We recently experienced one of those strong cold fronts, one that pushed water well offshore beyond the sandbars.

In addition to wide stretches of beach, another benefit to visiting in winter is that “unlike summer, when the shoreline is crowded with scores of sunbathers, the beach in winter is all but deserted,” said George Thatcher in his book Scenes from the Beach.

Beach Treasures

Just imagine wandering a beach stretching out in the distance on a trek in which you can walk mile after mile with no one else to compete with for treasures cast ashore by waves, no one else to interrupt your innermost thoughts.

Thatcher suggests people find time “for shells, watching birds in flight, studying tracks in the sand, viewing the horizon, feeling a sea wind against the face, whiffing its fragrant essence – all simple pleasures.” He’s talking about refreshing one’s soul, I believe.

So, don’t count the beach out in winter. When the next cold front pushes through and north winds blow, it’s time to bundle up, grab a bag for treasures, and head out the door to the nearest beach.

Picking one is simple – Galveston Island has more than 30 miles to choose from.

Steve Alexander teaches wetlands management at Texas A&M University at Galveston and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council. He is the author of Exploring Galveston: A Naturalist's Guide to the Island.