Discover Life in Coastal Tidepools

photo by Evan Severe
photo by Evan Severe

The tidepools on the Sonoma Coast are teeming with life. From the nearly invisible aggregating anemones to the lively hermit crabs living in appropriated turban snail shells, everywhere you step there are fragile intertidal creatures underfoot. Many tidepool animals can be safely touched as long as it is done with great care and respect.  A general guideline is to only touch animals as gently as you would your own eyeball.  For example, anemones should not be poked and sea hares should not be squeezed.

As a general rule, organisms should only be picked up if this may be accomplished easily.  No organism attached to a surface should be removed by force, however slight. Many animals, such as limpets, chitons, barnacles, mussels, seastars, and urchins are attached directly to rocks (permanently or temporarily) and using force to remove them would be harmful to them. Animals that are actively swimming or moving away from people, or that resist being handled, should not be pursued or picked up. Animals such as lobsters or sea urchins, that are protecting themselves in crevices or under rocks should not be pulled free or picked up.There are two locations on the Sonoma Coast well-known for their abundant tidepool offerings:

Salt Point State Park: Located 18 miles north of Jenner on Highway 1, there are many tidepools along the park’s coastline, including Gerstle Cove Marine Reserve. The visitor center is open on weekends from April through October and offers interpretive tidepool walks. If you’re lucky, you might even see a colony of harbor seals, or perhaps the wide tail of a  breaching whale. 707.847.3221

Shell Beach, Sonoma Coast State Beach: You will find this rocky, expansive beach on Highway 1 three miles south of Jenner. The tidepools are rich and easily accessible. During spring and summer low tides, volunteer naturalists are available to help interpret the tidepools for visitors. 707.875.3483. •