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Catching the Drift on Driftwood

Posted by E.G.D. on October 4, 2012

Driftwood on the Northern Washington Coast (Photo by Jsymmetry, Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been collecting driftwood for quite some time, now, mostly favoring thoroughly weathered pieces, but I’ve never actually bothered to specifically seek it out.  When I hit the beach, I tend to pick up anything I find interesting.  I might take home shark teeth, seashells, coral, agates, sea beans, beach glass, ocean-smoothed pottery, sand dollars, or driftwood from any beach I visit.  Granted, for most of the things on that list, I have visited beaches with the specific intention of finding them.  Today, I was fingering a couple of prize pieces of driftwood I have long displayed on my bathroom counter, and I found myself wondering why not driftwood?  It has so much personality, and it can have so much history behind it!  Was this old, worn piece of wood once part of a ship?  Was it part of a building that fell into the ocean, or was it part of a structure swept away by the mighty Mississippi river and taken out to sea with its flow?  There’s generally no way of knowing, but there is definitely a certain romance in wondering.

California Driftwood from my Bathroom Counter (Photo by E.G.D.)

Now, I’ve been surfing the web for hours today, and I have found very little “official” information about finding driftwood.  There do not appear to be many driftwood experts on the web who collect it strictly for fun, rather than profit!  However, I have come to some conclusions of my own, based on my own experience, as well as on today’s internet wanderings.  Firstly, driftwood is like any other beachcombing find, in that it is best to look for it right after a storm and at low tide.  Also, similar to the fact that beach glass is easiest to find on beaches near bars and old dumps, driftwood is easiest to find on beaches that are near forests or downstream from logging areas.  Finally, as with any item you might want to take home from a beach, different beaches have different rules with regard to driftwood collection (for instance, according to an article from the St.Lewis Post-Dispatch, if you want to collect driftwood on the beaches in Illinois state parks, you’ll need to secure a firewood collection permit in advance, and in St.Lewis County, it is illegal to remove driftwood from any beach or river shore at all).

Driftwood on Whaleshead Beach, Oregon Coast

Now, this isn’t much of a guide, I know, but it’s a start!  Why don’t we expand upon it?  Do any of you readers out there have advice about finding driftwood?  Do you have any cherished driftwood finds you would like to share with our little community?  Please feel free to start up a conversation in the comment area below!  If you would like to send a picture our way, I will be happy to post your triumphs right here in the post, properly labeled so that you can claim bragging rights.

In the meantime, best of luck beachcombing, everyone!  Here’s knocking on driftwood- E.G.D.

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15 Responses to “Catching the Drift on Driftwood”

  1. I found the same – not much on driftwood, plenty on flotsam & jetsam (eco-ntroversial!), sea glass (‘pretty’, pocketable) etc. Enter ‘driftwood’ in £m@z*n and it’s quite an uninspiring selection. There’s a gap in the market…

    • E.G.D. said

      Isn’t it weird? It would seem most articles and/or sale places online deal with driftwood for fish-tanks or driftwood as a medium for sculpture. There really doesn’t appear to be much driftwood collection for enjoyment and the thrill of the beachcombing hunt, as with shells and glass, etc.

  2. Jody said

    Thanks, Elisa! What a fun post. We just got back from the Oregon coast which is littered with driftwood! ~Some places more than others. I’ll get a photo up ASAP.

  3. oh what the beautiful rocks!

  4. kentiki said

    I love driftwood! You’ve got the nicest it seems in the Northwest. There’s not much driftwood on South Florida beaches, but there is occasional drift bamboo!

  5. Tina said

    I was wondering about laws and driftwood collection on Oregon’s beaches. It is difficult to find anything that specifically states if, or where, collecting is okay or not okay. I am a mosaic artist and I’ve been drawn to the shapes driftwood offers. I want to experiment with 3-D mosaic forms and driftwood seems like a perfect base! Can anyone here help answer the question of whether or not it is “legal” to pick up small amounts (a piece or two or three) of driftwood on the beach? Thanks!

    • Jody said

      Tina, here you go! Oregon Secretary of State Archives: BEACH LOG AND DRIFTWOOD REMOVAL POLICY. I hope you’ll send along an article and/or some photos of your work! (This particular section caught my eye: (b) Management to protect the traditional practice of gathering firewood and ornamental driftwood as long as these activities are compatible with the overall recreation and scenic uses of the beach)

      • Tina said

        Thank you, Jody! I’m happy to learn that what I want to do, collect a few pieces of driftwood now and then, is perfectly fine! I’ll be happy to show you the finished piece, however it turns out. It’s going to be fun!

      • Jody said

        Wonderful! :-) We’ll be looking forward to your show-and-tell!

  6. ANA D'ANGIOLELLA said

    I live in plantation, FL I’m trying to find a place where I can get driftwood to hang orchids on. you think there’s driftwood just laying around on beaches here

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