Friday, March 17, 2006

Tide Pooling 101

Some of my friends have asked about tide pooling, what it is, how you do it, and what it's like. This has prompted me to put together a little primer:



first, you have to be on the coast. There aren't any tide pools in the Genesee River. Find out what the tide is. A good way to do that is to use one of the many online tide calculators, my favorite is this one: http://www.saltwatertides.com/pickpred.html

Be sure to dress appropriately. If you are going to a rocky area, you will want to have sturdy jeans and supportive shoes. Where ever you go, make sure you are wearing shoes or boots that have good traction. Some of these areas get very slick. Whatever you wear on your feet, you are going to get wet. Some people prefer to wear dive booties, some wear waders or wellies. My kids wear old sneakers with good treads, and I found a pair of foam topped safety shoes that are made of the same material as some of the dive booties. Don't carry a lot of stuff, or use a small backpack. Salt water can make a mess of things!


There are different types of places you can find tide pools. Sometimes pools are in irregular primarily sandy areas like this pool near Scripps Institute in San Diego:

some are more irregular and rocky, like these near Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro:

Different habitats have different animals, as do different regions. You should be able to pick up a good field guide to your area in a bookstore or online. I usually go to the pools, then try to id the animals online, although I wouldn't mind having a good guide. Even the best of guides, however, may not contain all the animals you may see.

PART 3: Tide Pool Etiquette...

There are a couple things to remember when you are at the tide pools.

  • Look, don’t touch. Some of the animals you will encounter are fragile. Unless you are experienced, don’t touch anything.
  • Don’t take anything away. Those seemingly empty shells may be some animal’s home, or may be used by others to protect themselves from danger or drying out.

    Everything you take away lessens the environment.
  • Put things back the way you found them. If you do pick up a pretty shell to look at or overturn a rock (CAREFULLY, PLEASE) put it back the way you found it. There may be eggs or small animals on the bottom of the rocks or clinging to the shells that rely on that protection.
  • Don’t litter the tide pools. You’d be surprised how much garbage is left in even protected areas.
  • Keep one eye on the sea, the tides come in pretty quickly at times, and you don’t want to get caught by a returning sea.

  • Part 4: Look what I found!
    different animals live in different tidal zones, here are some of the animals you would find on the California coast, from closest in to farthest out...




    tube snails


    sea hare

    sea cucumber

    brittle star


    sea star

    *yes, these are all my own tide pool photos :)