Article sent in by long-time reader Bud Hardwick with additional material by Dave Tucker. Photos submitted by Bud Hardwick and Sandy Bowman.
An 8 ft x 6 ft x 4.5 ft high granitic erratic squats on the beach at Des Moines Beach Park. (Don’t mistake this for the French term that is coincidentally spelled the same way- this place is pronounced “Dezmoynz”). This isn’t a significantly large rock, but it is in a nice location. It clearly shows in Google Earth. The measurements obtained with tape measures are an interesting check on the ability of Google Earth’s measuring tool (the little ruler button at the top of the GE view). Dimensions using that are close: 8 ft x 4; however, depending on the photo you use in GE, parallax distortion is significant: in one view, length is only 6 feet. Height can not be determined within accuracy of GE.
The Des Moines Beach Erratic is located only a short distance north of the Des Moines Beach Park located at 22030 Cliff Avenue South in Des Moines, WA, on the north side of the Des Moines Marina where Des Moines Creek enters the Sound.
The most direct route from I-5 is via Exit 149B (from the south) or Exit 148 (from the North).
- Go west on WA 516 (Kent-Des Moines Road)
- 1.2 miles- north on 509 (Kent-Des Moines Road)
- 2.0 miles- merge with Marine View Drive South in Des Moines
- 2.3 miles- turn west (toward the water) onto South 223rd Street. Continue on this street as it curves north parallel to the water and becomes Cliff Avenue South. There are three parking options for the short stroll up the beach to the erratic: 1) at the Marina, 2) at the foot bridge in the park (2.6 miles from I-5, 0.3 miles from Marine View Drive), or 3) continue along Cliff Avenue South as it becomes Jordan Avenue, which loops around and reaches the beach north of the foot bridge via Nebo Blvd.
The field trip:
Walk to the beach on the north side of the creek. There’s a rough gravel boat launch on the north side of the bridge over the creek and the boulder is less than 50 yards up the beach to the north, standing out only a short distance from the high tide shoreline. The GPS coordinates are 47°24.250′N 122°19.848′W but you won’t need that to find this obvious boulder.
The granitic erratic is of a distinctly different makeup than the numerous boulders accumulating beneath the eroding sand and gravel cliff above this section of the beach. (DT says: Biotite mica is the obvious large dark mineral, but some of the smaller black grains look like hornblende. The white minerals look like plagioclase feldspar. There are a few smoky quartz veins in some of the photos I saw).
This area is interesting to visit for a number of other reasons. Notice the erratics artfully located at the south entrance to the pedestrian bridge that crosses the mouth of Des Moines Creek (one has a bronze dedication plaque mounted on it). Further along the road entering the Heritage Park (just past the yellow “Slide Area” caution sign) the bluff is eroding to the point of endangering a multi-story housing structure built along its lip. Attempts are being made to stabilize this slide area using various techniques. Locations like these occasionally make headlines as buildings dramatically topple down these unstable slopes. The valley surrounding Des Moines Creek is typically steep-sided but a substantial alluvial flat has formed in the valley floor. This area has long been used by Native peoples and more recently was the site of early commercial logging, a wood mill, a private park, a dance pavilion, a church retreat, and now a public beach and Heritage Park as well as the terminus of the Des Moines Creek Trail. Prompted by age and recent flood damage, many of the old buildings are being restored and are unusual in that the open creek is channeled beneath some of them. The adjacent Marina offers a long fishing (and viewing) pier as well as unusual “totem poles” at the entrance. The freshwater creek and saltwater of the Sound mingle among near-shore sand and gravel bars that change dimension with the rising and falling tide making this an interesting birding location.
To visit more glacial erratics in the area, go to the glacial erratics page on this website.