Tide Pool Safety, Etiquette and Tips for Visiting

Even after 18 years of exploration and teaching, every low tide brings a new surprise for Lisa Habecker, Haystack Rock Awareness Program’s education and volunteer coordinator.

“This environment is so dynamic — the wave action, the currents, the weather — all of it is changing constantly. That’s what makes any tide pool adventure so incredible,” she said. “It’s Mother Nature at her finest.”

Minus tides are the ideal time to visit tide pools in Washington and Oregon. Tide poolers should arrive early to get the full experience, Habecker said.

“Don’t show up right at low tide, but come hours before and linger after,” she said. “That way you understand the tide not as a particular time of day, but as an event.”

For safety and success on your own adventure, keep these other tips in mind:

  • Exploring tide pools can be dangerous. NEVER turn your back on the ocean. Even when the sea appears calm, be alert for sneaker waves and drifting logs and always have an exit from the returning tide.
  • Be brave, but not reckless.
  • Keep children within arms’ reach at all times.
  • Appropriate footwear can save the day. Waterproof boots are the best, flip-flops and bare feet are the worst. Watch out for slick, slimy and sharp rocks and check shoes for slippery, worn-out soles.
  • Never pull, pry, prod, pinch or poke at tide pool creatures.
  • Walk only on bare rock and sand, keeping one foot grounded at all times (no leaping).
  • If you touch, touch softly. If you pick something up or turn something over for a look (flat, partially submerged rocks hide the best surprises), gently put it back the same way you found it.
  • Always practice the principles of Leave No Trace.
  • You’re probably going to get wet, at least a little. Have dry towels and clothes waiting in the car, along with water and hand sanitizer for easy cleanup.

–Written by Lynette Rae McAdams

This story originally appeared in the May/June 2020 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey.

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