Discovering the Adventure
Northern California's
Tide Pool Tips

Tide Pool Tips:
Who isn't Fascinated by the Miniature World of Tide Pools!

Home to common splash zone denizens like starfish, barnacles, hermit crabs, sea anemones, periwinkles, and limpets, tide pools offer us the opportunity to explore and learn about some of the critters that live in the sea.

Tide pools often offer unexpected surprises too.

You might find a small octopus hiding in a crevice; a sea urchin (be careful not to get stuck by its spines); precious abalone clinging to the rock; the colorful sea slugs called nudibranches; even so-called sea hares, a type of sea slug that has what looks like a ruffle along its back.

These enticing little ecosystems along the Northern California coastline seem custom-made for curious humans to explore, but in doing so, we have a responsibility to protect the creatures who struggle so hard to survive there.

That's why we've put together these tips - to help you enjoy the tidal pools while protecting the health and safety of the creatures that live in them.

Tide Pool Tips:
Why do We Need to Exercise Care When We Explore a Tide Pool?

Life in a tide pool is harsh, and the plants and animals must be rugged and hardy to survive the constantly changing conditions of their environment.

Still, their requirements are such that they can be easily harmed by our thoughtlessness.

The phrase, first, do no harm, is taught to aspiring doctors in medical school so they will stop to think whether a proscribed treatment might do the patient more harm than good.

That same philosophy could well be applied to our tide pool tips! We're here to enjoy the tidal organisms, not to injure them.

So don't poke anemones with a sharp stick! Just kidding - you wouldn't do that, would you!

Did you know that people are the biggest threat to tide pools? That's because tide pools are such a popular attraction, and with so many people traipsing around, a lot of damage is often done, unbeknownst to those responsible.

The amazing thing is that it takes so little effort for us to enjoy these precious and fascinating ecosystems without destroying the creatures and their habitats. Read on to discover our simple tide pool tips and protect the tide pools YOU visit.

9 Tide Pool Tips:
Helping You Explore While Doing No Harm

Tide Pools and People; CC Mike BairdTide Pools and People; CC Mike Baird

Follow these simple guidelines to ensure that we first, do no harm, and yet enjoy exploring the world around us:

  1. If there are boardwalks, posted trails, or established paths, stay on them
  2. If not, try to step on solid, bare rocks
  3. Walk in a line, placing your feet where others have stepped to minimize the trampling effect
  4. It's best to look at a plant or animal in situ, or in place than to pick it up
  5. If you decide to pick up an animal to examine it briefly, keep your hands and the animal wet
  6. Be sure to replace the animal exactly where you found it (inside the crevice, if that's where it came from)
  7. If you pick up or move a stone or piece of driftwood to look underneath be careful not to crush anything, and replace it exactly as you found it
  8. Do the same if you move seaweed or algae to look underneath - replace it over the animals for their continued protection
  9. Here are some organisms which should not be picked up or removed because of the high potential for damaging them, or their inability to re-attach themselves:
  • Limpets, snails, abalone, chitons, mussels
  • Sponges, sea squirts, anemones, sea urchins
  • Algae, seaweeds, and other attached plants

One of the best things we can do to help these amazing creatures is to model these tide pool tips whenever we are investigating a tide pool. By doing so, we will be quietly teaching others in the way that they learn best.

One last tip: If you're really anxious to get up close and personal
with tide pool critters, visit an aquarium! Most have Splash Zones where, with the help of docents who protect the animals, you can look closely and touch many of these fascinating living beasties.

Insider secret: It's unfortunate that this is such an insider secret, but many people have been swept away by sneaker waves while their attention was diverted! While you're exploring near the ocean's edge, be sure to watch out for your own safety as well - check out these Beach Safety Tips to keep you and your family from harm!

For more of Discover Northern California's Hints and Tips:

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  • Whale Watching Tips
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