Thursday, March 15, 2012

TP Thursday: One ‘clam’ good time at Copalis Beach

In the early morning darkness they began arriving. From our cabin we watched dark silhouettes armed with ‘guns’ and shovels wade quickly across Boone Creek toward the ocean’s receding surf. Others arrived in cars and trucks; a scant parade of vehicles easing into position on the hard-packed sand. . .

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The ever-so-brief Pacific Razor Clam season had arrived on Washington State’s wet, windy, and oft-times wild Copalis (koh-PAY-lis) Beach.   The morning’s flurry of activity felt like a salt-sea version of  “Brigadoon” – the musical in which a place and time came to life for a matter of hours then disappeared as though it had never existed. 

Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 049We city slickers, with mere rain coats, gloves and jeans but sans heavy duty rain gear, opted to be spectators during the search for this most sought after shell fish in Washington State.

Its popularity in past years has attracted some 300,000 people, who’ve made nearly a quarter million digger-trips to the ocean beaches and harvested between 6 -  13 million razor clams. 

As we strolled the beach, we learned to look for three types of ‘clam’ signs. One, like in the photo, is the donut  hole in the sand. . .it  could be an indicator of a Razor Clam below . . .or of a shrimp. . .it takes practice to know the difference.

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Sometime you just need to dig and find out.  That’s what the clam ‘gun’ or shovel is used for:

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But only to a point. Then it is time to roll up the sleeves and really ‘dig it’:

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The beach was alive with diggers.  There are five Razor Clam beaches in Washington and it is not unusual to have as many as 1,ooo people per mile on those beaches on a spring clam dig day.

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Step Two:  Cleaning the Clams

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First  a dip in the hot tub. . .

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Then a bit of a scrub . . .

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And then the little critter was ready to cook.

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Step Three: Eating the Clams

We celebrated the harvest at a Saturday night feast which included Razor Clam chowder with our hosts at Iron Springs Resort.  (The link above will take you to the recipe they used – if’s courtesy of Kevin Davis of Steelhead Diner at Seattle’s Pike Place Market.)

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Gathered around the table with Doug and Dustin True (owners of Iron Springs Resort) and an assortment of their clam digging friends we shared  food, wine, stories and laughter. 

It was Pacific Northwest life at its finest.

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A few afterwards:  Razor clam season comes in one- or two-day spurts each year; sometimes the season can be as few as 15 or as many as 35 days. Clam diggers are required to purchase a state license and are limited to 15 clams per person per dig.

The clam cleaning station is one of the new additions at Iron Springs Resort, the mid-century resort that re-opened last year after a years worth of renovation and modernization. (See yesterday’s  Washington Wednesday for more on the resort.)

Today is Travel Photo Thursday so be sure to drop by Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos from around the world.


  1. I just realized recently that I've never seen a clam. How lovely to go clam digging.
    The best part: eating and connecting.

  2. That's one heck of a lot of clam diggers. I don't mind clams - but only the small ones. Maybe if you cut those razor clams into bits they'd be good. I do like the sound of all that camaraderie and of course the wine at the end of the day.

    1. Everyone said they are great just lightly breaded and quickly fried but I was happy to sample my first as small chunks in the chowder.

  3. It was fun sitting around the table and hearing the diggers tell stories about their childhood introductions to digging and back when the clams were so prolific that individuals were limited to 48 clams a dig instead of today's 15 per dig.

  4. I had no idea! I love clams...chowder or fried. Fried clams are so fattening, but so good. When I was home in Nova Scotia last year the first place I went was my favorite fried clam joint :)

    1. Neither did I. . .razor clam season has made me more fully appreciate those chowders!

  5. Nicely illustrated story, Jackie.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Dick. Did you ever go clam digging when you lived up in this part of the world?

  6. It really was great fun eating and visiting. I love Frances Mayes' books when she writes of long afternoons filled with friends sharing food and wine at her Tuscan home. I realized Saturday night that the same sharing takes place right here in the Pacific Northwest.

  7. This looks like a fun and intersting activity to do. The eating part seems to be the most fun. The chowder looks delicious!

  8. Amazing post!You should have fun and enyojed you meal I guess! I had a look ate the receipe you've linked and think I'm going to cook it!

    1. Thanks, glad you liked the post. I know you will love the chowder!

  9. Nice post! I felt like I was really there through all the great photos. And now I'm craving chowder...thanks for the recipe link!

  10. I've actually come to this post backwards from one where you mention this beach and the resort.

    That must have been a good feeling to sit down and eat these clams after having collected some at the beach. Thanks for recipe, too. I don't think we have the exact same clams here in Chile, but there is just such an enormous variety of shellfish available, so I'll try it out with something similar looking. Happy eating!

  11. Just adding that I now see that the recipe comes from Steelhead Diner in Pike Place Market, Seattle. I must have walked right past the place while photographing in the market late last year. What a pity I didn't try it, then. I'll note it down for next time...


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