Tide-pool time! Waning waves unveil treasures below the surface of the sea on Peninsula
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Jacqueline Laverdure/Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
A group of unidentified children explores a tide pool at Clallam Bay in September 2011.
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Janet Lamont/Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
Two shades of ochre sea stars cling with gooseneck and acorn barnacles above green sea anemones in a Peninsula tide pool.
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Jacqueline Laverdure/Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
A purple sea urchin is cradled in a rocky tide pool on the Pacific Coast.
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Rudi Edel/Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
Among the treasures to be found in North Olympic Peninsula tide pools is staghorn algae, also known as “dead man’s fingers.”
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Rudi Edel/Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
Among the sights to be seen in North Olympic Peninsula tide pools is a blood star attached to a bed of mussels.

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

Very low tides, along with increasingly early sunrises, are expected on the North Olympic Peninsula beginning Monday.

It all adds up to a week of opportunity for tide-poolers.

Spring minus tides — when tides fall to well below the usual low tide line — will last through June 2.

On Monday, the minus tides fall in the early morning hours just after dawn. They will be later each day until June 2, when they hit their lowest points by about noon.

A second opportunity for exploring the coastline during minus tides will be from June 23 to July 1.

For daily reports on the heights of local tides, see the weather page in the Peninsula Daily News.

“You want to follow the tide out,” said Bob Campbell, facility coordinator for the Feiro Marine Life Center in Port Angeles.

“Don't be stingy with time before low tide. You don't want to get there at the same time as low tide.”

Low intertidal creatures exposed during the minus tides will include sea stars, sea anemones, sea urchins, crab, shellfish and a variety of seaweed.

They will be found above water or in very shallow water during those extremely low tides on rocky coastlines.

Small fish and young octopuses can sometimes be found in rocky pools that remain filled with water above the tide line during the low tides.

Moon snails and sand dollars also will be seen in the more protected coastlines along the East Jefferson County bays, canals and inlets, said Chrissy McLean, marine program coordinator for the Port Townsend Marine Science Center at Fort Worden State Park.

What to see

“Take a good field guide to see new critters and learn what they are,” said Robert Steelquist, education coordinator for the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

“Take lots of pictures.”

Do not take any sea creatures, he said. They cannot legally be taken from the marine sanctuary or adjacent Olympic National Park lands.

Steelquist said most of the creatures can be touched with a finger or open hand, but he warned against picking them up.

“If you pull a sea star off a rock, you are tearing their tube feet off,” he said.

He asked that when visitors turn over rocks to see what is underneath, they roll them back into their original places.

“It is home for the creatures that live under that rock,” Steelquist said.

Sometimes visitors can't avoid walking on sea life, he said, but if possible, walkers should avoid routes through patches of living fauna and flora.

Some sea stars seen on the coast may have sea star wasting disease and may have missing limbs or gooey white patches, Steelquist said.

The sanctuary staff is aware of the disease and does not need to be notified, he said.


Visitors should take safety precautions.

■ Be aware of when the tide is coming back in.

“Visitors should make sure the tide table they are using applies to the location they are exploring,” Steelquist said.

■ Pay attention to the waves. Don't turn your back on the ocean.

Sneaker waves — those larger than the waves around them — can arrive without warning.

■ Don't go too far around rocky headlands.

A returning tide can trap tide-poolers in a location where they cannot get back to higher ground.

Where to tide pool

Any accessible coastal beach with a rocky base is good for tide-pooling, Steelquist said.

“Mostly what you're going to see at a sandy beach at low tide is more sand,” he said.

Feiro volunteers spend a lot of time at tide pools learning about the area's sea life and searching for new residents for the center's touch-tanks and aquariums.

There are several well-known tide pools on the Peninsula, but in some cases, visitors miss the best parts by spending too much time at the obvious spots, Campbell said.

Popular tide pools

■ Pacific Coast.

The best place to see Pacific Coast tide pools is at the Hole in the Wall, a 1.5-mile hike north of Rialto Beach, Steelquist said.

Other good locations include Beach Trail 4 at Kalaloch — a quarter-mile hike — 15 miles south of Hoh Rain Forest Road on U.S. Highway 101, and Ruby Beach, just south of the Hoh River on Highway 101.

■ Western Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The Salt Creek Recreation Area, northeast of Joyce, is a favorite spot for tide-pooling, Campbell said, adding that it is famous for the adjacent Tongue Point.

Tongue Point is a long, narrow shelf jutting into the Strait. It is just under the water during normal low tides, but its rich sea life is exposed during minus tides.

Most people concentrate on Tongue Point itself, missing the best tide pool creatures just a bit to the east of it, Campbell said.

He said there are “mini fjords” carved into the basalt rock, some partially roofed. Here, less common sea life can be seen clinging to the sides and hanging from the roofs in the partially submerged ecosystems.

Clallam Bay, near Slip Point, is another popular area to explore tide pools, as are small rocky beaches that dot the coast from Slip Point to Cape Flattery.

■ Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca and Hood Canal.

Indian Island County Park on state Highway 116 has an unusual feature: beds of sand dollars, McLean said.

“People don't think of sand dollars as sea creatures. They think of them as the shells,” she said.

McLean recommended a number of good locations to see tide pools, including North Beach County Park and Fort Worden and Fort Flagler state parks.

Tide pools located on state park lands require a Discover Pass for access. Discover Passes are $10 for one day or $30 for an annual pass and can be purchased at www.discoverpass.wa.gov or at local sporting goods stores listed on the website.

For beaches on the Makah Reservation, a $10 recreation pass is required. Passes can be purchased at any Neah Bay store that displays a sign advertising their sale.

Marine education

For a refresher course a day before heading to the beaches or for those who cannot access “wild” tide pools, intertidal creatures can be seen at the Feiro Marine Life Center at City Pier in Port Angeles and at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

Both centers have trained naturalists who can explain much of what can be seen at the tide pools.

“Come here first to get a feel for what's out there,” Campbell said.

After a visit to tide pools, visitors are welcome to return to the Feiro for explanations for what they saw or to identify creatures in photographs, he said.

The Feiro Marine Life Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.

Admission is $4 for adults and $1 for youths 3 to 17. Children 2 and younger are admitted free.

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is open from noon to 4 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. It will be open six days a week for the summer beginning June 6.

Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for youths 6 to 17. Children 5 and younger are admitted free.

The marine science center in Port Townsend has intertidal creature identification cards and books for sale in its gift shop.

At the Olympic Coast Discovery Center at The Landing mall, 115 E. Railroad Ave. in Port Angeles, visitors can view sea science exhibits relating to the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and get maps and directions to beaches on the Pacific Coast from Cape Flattery to Kalaloch.

The Olympic Coast Discovery Center is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.


Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 25. 2014 6:38PM
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