VA - As Rising Seas Push High Tides Higher, Northern Neck Volunteers Gather Valuable Data With Their Phones

When volunteers head out to map the growing reach of Virginia's tidal flooding, one of the obstacles can be the water itself.

Tami McCauley and a neighbor, both Kilmarnock-based members of the Northern Neck Master Gardeners, set out in a skiff last Sunday to map the year's highest tide at Hughlett Point on the Chesapeake Bay near Ditchley.

"We couldn't land the boat there because there was no beach," McCauley said.

Despite the day's quiet, beautiful weather, the water line advanced straight into the marshes at the natural preserve and limited their survey to a smaller stretch of beach than they'd planned for.

"It was dramatic how high the tides were," said McCauley.

Roughly two dozen other gardeners-turned-tide mappers in McCauley's group fanned out on boat ramps, creeks and beaches from Tappahannock to Colonial Beach on Oct. 18, some following the path of high tide by car.

Their simple taps on a smartphone app gradually traced the footprint of the Northern Neck's King Tide, or the highest local astronomical tide of 2020.

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