I was reminded (while tidepooling with the family this past weekend) that the tide doesn't have to be very low to have fun. It wasn't one of the year's amazing minus tides. It was a humble -0.2 and an early one at that (which in my reality means we didn't arrive on scene until several hours after the "best time" to go tidepooling). "What can you see on a tide like that?" Well, pretty much all of the common inhabitants of the splash zone, upper intertidal zone, and even some flora and fauna that prefer it a little wetter, including some mid-intertidal critters (especially in the actual pools themselves).
The family's wish-list included: 1) a sea star, preferably a big orange one, 2) an anemone, 3) a crab and 4) some interesting shells and rocks. This is a quick list of (some of) what we were able to see in about an hour and a half of exploring: barnacles galore (acorn and gooseneck), various snails (mainly periwinkles and some black turban snails), limpets, chitons, anemones (tons of aggregating anemones and giant green anemones in the pools), various seaweeds (e.g., sea lettuce, rockweeds, sea palms bobbing in the surf, coralline algae in some pools), mussels, and of course, the colorful ochre sea stars and plenty of sculpins. There were also a few "other visitors", including a a small pod of harbor seals, a black oystercatcher, a group of pigeon guillemots and some ever-present gulls. We hit up the tidepools first (focusing on the sand/rock interface) and worked our way along the wrack line on the way back. Try not to forget the wrack line, especially with kids. Treasures abound, including sand fleas (amphipods), washed up sea palms (these were a favorite), and tons of shells to explore. Although I forgot to locate a shore crab (item 3 on the wish-list), we found the shells (molts, mainly) of several species (dungeness, red rock, and mole) which did the trick. The wrack is a great "teaching moment" tool for kids to discuss the place of various items, like shells, in the coastal and marine ecosystem. If you are staying at a coastal state park this summer and fall, check with a ranger, they may just be planning on doing a "wrack-walk" on the beach!
If your family is anything like mine, a modest low tide, of which there are quite a few more this month, is more than enough to satisfy their needs. Check out some trip tips, to help keep them and the tidepool inhabitants safe. If you get a chance, share your finds with other tidepoolers on the Oregon Tidepools Flickr group.
Giant green anemone found in a tidepool at a "not-so-low" tide.