Bay Area Tidepooling

Go Tidepooling at these Marine Protected Areas to Exercise your Legs and Fire Your Imagination!

In 2012, California lawmakers gave a very important gift to Californians and the millions of people who love to visit our state each year. In a bold, prescient and environmentally responsible move, they voted to establish the country’s first statewide system of marine protected areas. These areas are essentially underwater parks, which serve to protect and preserve the spectacular variety of animals that live in California’s intertidal zones and the habitats where they live. They are ideal for tidepooling, or observing fishes and invertebrates as they perform the roles of their niche. If you have patient eyes and an adventurous soul, you can perch on a rock or two and observe how these animals react to each other and their environment in this dynamic habitat. The Bay Area is blessed with a handful of our state’s marine protected areas, including:

  • Asilomar State Marine Reserve in Pacific Grove
  • Natural Bridges State Marine Reserve in Santa Cruz
  • Montara State Marine Reserve in Moss Beach
  • Duxbury Reef State Marine Conservation Area in Bolinas
  • Gerstle Cove State Marine Reserve in Sonoma County

Each of these areas is spectacular, so you can’t go wrong no matter which of them you choose to see. However, if you do want to go tidepooling, and you really should, there are a few things to remember:

  • Resist the urge to touch the animals. Most have a protective mucus layer that acts as their first line of defense against pathogens. If this is disturbed, they become vulnerable to parasites and bacteria.
  • Do not remove any rocks, plants or animals from tide pools. It’s illegal! It is also illegal to turn rocks over and otherwise disturb these important habitats.
  • Take extra care when placing your steps, as you could step on and kill animals without realizing it. Also consider that many intertidal animals live under rocks. If the rock shifts when you step on it, you could crush the animals beneath it.
  • Wear sneakers or sandals with soft soles to reduce your impact on the habitat.
  • Bring a camera. Depending on the tides and the time of day, you’re likely to get great shots of an octopus, fish or other cool animal.
  • Never turn your back to the ocean. A sneaker wave could catch you off guard and take you out to sea in the blink of an eye.
  • Make sure to pack out what you brought in. If you really want to make a positive impact, bring a small garbage bag and pick up any litter that you see that has washed up on the beach or been left by less conscientious tidepoolers.

Tidepooling is nearly free, a lot of fun and a marvelous learning opportunity for kids of all ages. Before you go, make sure to check the website of your preferred marine reserve for hours, rules, tide tables and other useful information. Make sure to set aside plenty of time for these Bay Area excursions. Time flies when you’re peering intently into a tide pool!