Weekend Low Tides Bring Outdoor Opportunities
Starting today, a string of low tides in Puget Sound and along the Pacific Coast bring opportunities to discover an ecosystem usually inaccessible to those who like to keep their feet on solid ground. It's a great way to get outside and explore nature in springtime, whether you choose a city beach or a hiking trail along the coast.
I lived near some of the best tide pooling beaches for a dozen years and never explored them. Then one day at Lincoln Park in West Seattle my young son and I stumbled upon volunteer beach naturalists from the Seattle Aquarium during a low tide. Since then, I take my kids tide pooling a few times each year. We usually go to the same beach, but every time we go there are different creatures to find.
Keep sea creatures, marine environments and your family safe
Plan your trip by consulting NOAA's Tide Predictor online or by carrying a tide table (especially when exploring the Pacific Coast where you could become trapped by a returning tide). For maximum viewing, time your visit for an hour before low tide.
The beach naturalists showed us some cool things -- my son was hooked! They also introduced us to good beach etiquette. Here are my take-aways for you:
- Always step carefully during low tide, avoiding sea creatures like anemones that lie at or just below the surface of the sand. For this reason, I highly recommend leaving kids and toddlers at home until they can understand the impact their actions have on the marine environment.
- Do not collect. While beachcombing and collecting may have been one of your treasured childhood memories, the culture has changed as biologists have witnessed the effect of these actions on the intertidal marine environment. Please do not take home shells or animals; they are all integral components of the ecosystem.
- Touch gently, or simply look. Low tides can be stressful for the sea animals.
- Know your tides. Watch for the incoming tide and for rogue waves, especially on the coast. You can find a tide table for dozens of different locations from NOAA.
Your guide to tide pools and easy-to-get-to beaches
If you want to get started, but don't know where to go, I have put together a guide to three excellent tide pool hikes. I've also listed 13 city beaches, from Olympia to Whidbey Island, that are known for the tide pooling. Have fun!