Enjoy the California Coast

And Its Fascinating Tide Pools

 Tide pools can be found all along the Pacific Ocean on the California coast. The smooth sand beaches that are prevalent on the shore are interrupted by jutting rocks that have been pockmarked and pitted by centuries of salt water moving over them on a daily basis. If you are taking a stroll along the beach, and need to climb over the rocks or find a way around them, it may seem like an irritating task. What you may not be aware of is all the California wildlife that is teaming in and around those rocks in the natural pools of salt water that are left behind by the action of the tides and waves. If you pause for a few minutes to explore, you may be surprised at what you can discover in a typical California tide pool.

Laguna Beach Tidal PoolCredit: Photo taken by author, Deborah-Diane

Plants and Animals in California Tidal Pools

What are some of the living creatures that you might expect to find in a California tidepool? You could see small fish, such as sculpin or opaleye. You also could find Hermit crabs, shore crabs, mussels, black turban snails, kelp snails, tube snails, sea urchins, sand castle worms, sea hares and small creatures such as a chiton or a rock louse. You may also see rock weed, sea anemones, sea lettuce, sea fingers, sea palms, rough limpets, and Caralline algae. If you are extremely lucky, you might also discover a small octopus, a starfish or an abalone. The rocks around tidepools are usually covered with shells and barnacles, including the gooseneck barnacles. Be careful, because the barnacles can cut you if you fall on them. The tidepools may also be covered with flies or sand fleas, and can sometimes have a strong smell.

If you want to learn more about the creatures you are seeing, you may want to order an Amazon pook to give you more detailed information.  You can find them at this quick link:

Quick link to helpful Amazon books about tide pools.

Please Don't Touch the Creatures

Although it is tempting to want to poke, touch or pull these fascinating plants and animals off of the rocks, please don't do this. Because of the combination of pollution and the people who have removed items from the tidal pools in the past, the number of plants and animals in the California tidepools has declined in recent years. We need to leave these living creatures alone so that they can increase in numbers and repopulate our tidal pools once again.

What are the Rules?

Most of the California beaches will have signs nearby telling you how to behave around the tide pools. They ask that you never remove any plants, animals, shells or rocks from the tidal areas. In fact, they ask you to look at and enjoy the creatures without touching anything. In addition, they recommend that you NOT turn over any rocks in the hopes of getting a better view. This could harm a creature, or destroy its fragile habitat.

For your own safety, it is advisable to wear shoes when you are exploring a tidal area. If you are barefoot, the barnacles and shells could cut your feet. If you wear flip flops, you could easily slip and fall. Tennis shoes or similar appropriate beach shoes will allow you to safely observe the teeming life in the tide pools, with less danger to yourself. Be careful where you walk, though. You don't want to hurt any of the tide pool creatures! Finally, if you plan to spend much time exploring the tide pools, you will want to wear a hat, protective clothing, such as a t-shirt or swimshirt, and sunscreen. The sunlight reflecting off the water can be quite strong, and you can get burned quickly.

Once you know the rules, and are appropriately dressed, you can easily spend hours with your family exploring the California beaches. They are a fun and fascinating place for both children and adults to spend an afternoon!

To read more about fun and interesting things to do when you are in Southern California, you may also be interesting in these articles:

Our Oceans and Urban Runoff

Laguna Beach Paddleboard Adventures

Laguna Beach Kayak Adventures

Laguna Beach Surfing

Family Fun: Your California Beach, Golf and Disneyland Vacation!

Here's a Handy Field Guide

Be Able to Recognize What You are Seeing

A Quck Field Guide to Tidepools of the Pacific Coast
Amazon Price: $6.95 $6.26 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 18, 2014)
Your kids will have lots of questions. This book will help you answer them.