Weekend low tides expose expanses of beach to explore for sea creatures

Using tidepool etiquette protects marine animals

Staff reportApril 21, 2013 

A series of low tides starting Friday will offer a good opportunity to explore local beaches on Puget Sound as the receding water exposes a variety of marine creatures.

Rocky beaches around the South Sound are a living hands-on marine education center. Each low tide gives explorers a glimpse of life not normally seen.

Among the plants one might see are kelp, sea lettuce, rockweed, rainbow seaweed and algae such as Turkish towel.

You also might find several kinds of sea stars, crabs of various sizes and shapes and anemones. Under large, barnacle-clad rocks, you might find gunnel fish that look like eels, other small fish such as sculpins and several types of shrimp. You might be lucky to find a chiton. sea cucumber or small octopus.

The South Sound is home to a number of beaches worth exploring. Some of the best are Titlow Beach in Tacoma; Fox Island bridge, Kopachuck State Park and Penrose Point State Park in the Gig Harbor area; Quartermaster Harbor at Vashon Island; Salter’s Point Beach and Sunnyside Beach Park in Steilacoom; Burfoot Park and Priest Point Park north of Olympia; and Tolmie State Park and Nisqually Reach north of Lacey.

Elsewhere in Puget Sound, you can make a day trip out of it and visit Seahurst Park in Burien, Beach Park in Des Moines, South Alki Beach in West Seattle, Richmond Beach in Shoreline or Salt Creek Recreation Area west of Port Angeles.

Should you decide to visit a beach, keep these tidepool etitquette tips in mind:

 • Watch where you step. Try to avoid stepping on eelgrass beds, which are nearshore nurseries for many animals.

 • Don’t pull on animals such as anemones and barnacles that are tightly attached to rocks or pilings.

 • Touch animals gently with one wet finger.

 • If you move rocks to look underneath, gently put them back the way they were.

 • Don’t take away rocks, shells, seaweed, logs and other beach items. These provide food and shelter for many of the creatures you’ll see.

 • Families should bring extra clothes and sanitizing wipes for young explorers. Parents of toddlers can count on their children slipping and falling in the muck, so having a spare outfit ready afterward is a good idea.

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