And one of our most anticipated activities on the coast is to go tide pooling!
The first time that we ever tide pooling, we had no clue what we were doing. It was still a magical time, and I love to look back at the pictures and relive the awe and wonder that we all experienced during that first visit. But we also wish that we would have been a little better prepared, so this post is to both share a few photos from one of our recent days on the Oregon coast, and to share some tide pooling tips for those of you anticipating your first visit!
So, what is a tide pool anyway?
Tide pools are pools of water left in large indentations in the sand that are left on the beach when the tide goes out. They are found around rocks and other solid objects that are underwater, or partially underwater, when the tide is in.
Those small pools of ocean water left behind, are often teeming with sea life, if you are willing to take the time to look for it.
Where can we find tide pools?
Since we are big roadschoolers here, and everything is considered a learning opportunity, first you have to learn/know what an intertidal zone is. An intertidal zone is the area that is under water during high tide, but also above the water during low tide (this is also a great time to teach your kids about tides and how they are controlled by the moon’s gravitational pull on the earth). Tide pools only happen in the intertidal zone, and you can find them just about anywhere where there is a sandy beach that also has rock outcroppings!
We ask in each area for the best places to go; visitor’s bureaus are a great source of local information – google them then give them a call! When we visit Oregon, our favorite stops for tide pooling are below Heceta Head Lighthouse, and at Seal Rock State Park.(tide going out at the beach)
We visited Seal Rock State Park on the Oregon coast this time. Seal Rock State Park is just south of Newport, OR, so it’s a stop that we like to plan in conjunction with a visit to The Oregon Coast Aquarium!(This is why this area is called Seal Rock State Park – this rock is right off the shore, and is nearly always covered with seals sunning themselves.)
When is the best time to go tide pooling?
The best time to observe tide pools is in the hour/hour and a half both before and after low tide. During low tide, the water has ebbed out as far as it is going to go from the shore, leaving more tide pools exposed, and is the safest time to go. Also, it’s a bonus if you have a negative tide. A negative tide is a tide that goes out farther than the average lowest tide as measured over the previous years’ averages. Because of the way the moon pulls on the earth and affects the tides, negative tides sometimes happen during the daytime in the winter months; those are the very best times to go tide pooling!
What should you take tide pooling?
Now that we have been tide pooling multiple times, here’s what we take along on our excursions…
*sturdy footwear with grippy bottoms… mud/rain-type boots are great if you are going in cooler weather (the ocean water is freezing!), and close toed sandals like Keens are super for summer-time when it’s hotter out and getting wet is part of the fun!
*magnifying glass…we love to take a magnifying glass along with us when we go exploring! You won’t believe some of the detail on these incredible creatures!
*camera!…tide pools offer some fabulous photo opportunities! And souvenirs of your day…Don’t forget the saying: Take only pictures, leave only footprints.
*sea life guide…if you can find a field guide to sea life that you like, take it along. Visiting an aquarium, and spending time learning about the animals that frequent tide pools is also valuable. Besides memories, we also use our cameras to take pictures of any animals that we don’t recognize, to look up later when we get home.
*towel and change of clothing for kids…this is optional; we never do. But then again, we don’t mind our van being gritty with sand and smelling like dead sea creatures…
What is proper eco-friendly tide pool etiquette?
*Remember that these are living animals and plants that you are looking at, and this is their home. Be gentle. Many people do not touch the animals at all, others use the 2 finger touch (index and middle) that is common at touch and sting ray tanks at aquariums, and others pick up the animals.
*If you chose to pick up the animals, do so with wet hands, and be sure to return them to exactly where you found them. Many of these animals live their entire lives in a very small area – if you move them, even to the next tide pool over, you may be removing them from their habitat.
(Be gentle! Did you know that there is no such thing as a star fish? Nope. Their real name is Sea Stars and they are not a fish at all.)
*Do not pry or pull off animals that are attached or holding onto the rocks. Sea stars are the perfect example. If you find a sea star that is not grasping onto a rock, then do pick it up gently and check it out if you would like! (and when you are done, put him right back as you found him) But pulling on animals when they are holding onto something can injure them.
*Do not walk through tide pools. Stay on the edges, above the water line, to avoid stepping on animals and plants that call the tide pool home. After you’ve spent some time watching tide pools up close, you will be impressed by how many living things are in that little area!
(sea anemones are a common resident of tide pools)
*Lift rocks and peek under them…you will often be rewarded by finding small crabs or other bottom dwelling hiders, but be sure to put the rock back in it’s same place gently. Please do not flip it over as it can kill the animals that call the top of the rock home, such as barnacles and mussels.
(rock outcropping – the perfect place to look for tide pools, and the animals that live in them)
And, here are a few random tips and tricks for making your fun time on the coast also safe…
*Never turn your back on the ocean, and always be aware of your surroundings. While nothing ‘bad’ has ever happened to us at the ocean, we are now much more aware of the intense power and the unpredictability of the ocean. Initially, we did not know about, or understand, ‘sneaker waves’ – sneaker waves are waves that are larger than the others of the time (come up farther on the shore) and sneak up on you. Waves can be powerful things, and they can make you lose your footing and then sweep you along with it. Sneaker waves catch you unaware, as you are not expecting the water to wash up on the beach so far. While you needn’t be paranoid of sneaker waves, it is prudent that you understand that they happen (and especially that your children do!), and are aware of your surroundings.
*Be aware of the tides…just as the tides go out, they come back in. Tide pooling can be very exciting, and occupying. It’s easy to get so involved in checking out the pools at your feet that you forget to watch the ocean as a whole. Be careful to not get stranded out on a high area of sand as the tides come back in.
*Be aware that many of the shell creatures are very sharp (and salt water in cuts is no fun at all!). We just remind our littles to be aware of the danger.
(mussels, attached to a large rock, most with barnacles cemented to them – the edges of the mussels can be very sharp)
We have loved our times tide pooling; it is a great way to get out and explore creation, learn new things about the ocean and its creatures, and make precious memories as a family!
We love to stay until sunset, and we are careful to pack snacks for the trip back to the rv since everyone is hungry and exhausted from all the running around on the beach and breathing in the fresh sea air.
Tide pooling is such a great family activity as all ages love to discover sea life! Each excursion is different, and we have learned so much about the ocean, and some of the animals that call it home, through tide pooling!
If you haven’t had a chance to go tide pooling yet, it’s definitely a ‘bucket list’ experience!