It’s time to get out your beachcombing boots and your desire to explore a beach at low tide.
The first set of low tides ideally timed to allow for looking under rocks, around pilings and among seaweed will begin May 17.
South Sound residents have easy access to a number of rocky beaches that are home to sea cucumbers, gunnels, sea stars, chitons and all sizes of crabs.
You can explore a beach on your own or take part in a program organized by a local park department or wildlife organization.
Among some of the best locations in the South Sound to explore when the tide is out include Titlow Beach in Tacoma; Fox Island bridge, Kopachuck State Park and Penrose Point State Park in the Gig Harbor area; Quartermaster Harbor on Vashon Island; Sunnyside Beach Park in Steilacoom; Burfoot Park and Priest Point Park north of Olympia; and Tolmie State Park north of Lacey.
While some locations offer free access, visitors to state parks must have a Discover Pass ($10 a day or $30 a year) and there is a $5 parking fee for non-residents at Sunnyside Beach.
If you want to make a day trip out of it, there are a number of good spots within an easy drive. They include 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.
Try to arrive 60-90 minutes before low tide. That gives you plenty of time to look for marine creatures as the water recedes before reaching its lowest point for the day.
ORGANIZED PROGRAMS: There are several organizations and agencies that host low tide programs in the spring and summer.
Metro Parks Tacoma will holds it first “Tiptoe Through the Tidepools” program of the season from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. May 17 at Titlow Park, 8425 Sixth Ave., Tacoma. Families will have the chance to explore the beach and learn about tide pool life. For more information on the free program, contact 253-591-6439 or tacomanaturecenter.org.
The South Sound Estuary Association will begin its “Meet at the Beach” program June 5 at Tolmie State Park. Volunteer beach naturalists will be stationed at that beach and others during the summer. Go to sseacenter.org for the summer schedule and locations.
In the Gig Harbor area, Harbor WildWatch holds guided beach walks at locations such as Kopachuck, Penrose Point and Joemma Beach state parks, and the Purdy Spit. The walks are scheduled to begin June 14 at Purdy and Manchester. Learn more at harborwildwatch.org.
Later in the summer, you can take part in the Low Tide Celebration at Point Robinson on Maury Island in June.
BEACH BEHAVIOR: Should you decide to visit a beach, keep these tidepool etitquette tips in mind, especially if you take young children along:
• 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.