Where do the tidal waters go?

On nice evenings you might find me walking along a nice stretch of the Delaware River in Central New Jersey. One evening the discussion turned to the changing levels of the river. I was guessing that the rise and fall of the river was due to rain, runoff and maybe some snow or ice melting up in the mountains. My friend thought it was tidal. It turns out that where we walk is tidal. The Delaware river forms the western boundary of the entire state, flows into the Delaware Bay some 40 or 50 miles South then into the Atlantic ocean another 40 or 50 miles or so. Anyway, where does all this water go? Which way is the water traveling? Does it flow towards Europe then bounce back? That’s a couple of thousand miles and not possible to make the round trip in 12 hours give or take. Any clues where all that water goes?

The water goes into tidal bulges that are on the side of the Earth directly facing the moon, and also on the opposite side. This page has a good, clear explanation of tides, and some diagrams that should clarify things for you.

If you ever find yourself in the back bays of New Jersey, and the tide is ‘going out’…it literally rushes out for several hours until dead low tide.

You could be sitting in a peak high tide enjoying good fishing, and gradually but increasingly, the water begins to rush out with all you potential fish…and you start drifting out with the water.

As Q.E.D, explains, the warer rushes towards the bulge…and the bulge moves as the moon moves. At the highest and lowest tides of the 28 day lunar cycle, you get the highest and lowest tide of the month on the same day. The bulge is either on your side of the planet, or it’s not.

I’m not too sure what you are getting at. As previous posters have said, the high water “bulge” moves around the earth, so an observer in a fixed location will see the sea level rise and fall.

The water isn’t really “going” anywhere. Instead, think of the sea level rising and falling. The river is tidal anywhere where its level is lower than the high-tide level. The point where it reaches the sea, on average, is at zero feet (mean sea level), but the river will be tidal for several vertical feet above this level. As most big rivers are pretty close to horizontal, you don’t get high enough to be out of the tidal range until you are many miles inland. So as the sea rises, it steadily fills the river to a higher level. Effectively the river-sea interface has moved further inland. As the tide falls, the interface moves back out to sea.

in layman’s terms… the gravitational pull of the moon causes a “bulge” where the level is higher than everywhere else. Because the level is higher in the “bulge” there is more water there… that water has to comer from somewhere… so when the "bulge’ is not where you are all that extra water flows toward the “bulge”… when the “bulge” is where you are, it comes back.

As simple as I can break it down. hope that helps

Wrong way to think about it. A given bucketful of water doesn’t go to Europe (or wherever) and back. It goes (arbitraty distance for illustration) one foot away and back. The water that used to be in that one foot away spot also moves out a foot, and the water that used to be where it moves to moves a foot, etc.