Mysteries at the Edge of the Ocean
By Gary Hayes
Published: 06/27/2012  Updated: 08/08/2019
You never know what you will find in the intertidal areas. It was a big surprise to see this three-foot skate hanging out in the tide pools at Cape Arago State Park.
You never know what you will find in the intertidal areas. It was a big surprise to see this three-foot skate hanging out in the tide pools at Cape Arago State Park.  Photo by Gary Hayes

What will you discover in the rich and vibrant ecosystem of tide pools?

Everyone recognizes the stunning beauty of the Northwest Coast with its scenic beaches, panoramic vistas and dramatic landscapes, but for those who pause and look a little closer, the secrets of rich and vibrant ecosystems lurk just below the surface. Remarkable natural wonders reveal themselves if you're willing to slow down, look closely and learn about this mysterious world at the edge of the ocean. The low tides of summer offer the best opportunities to look for the interesting creatures that inhabit the intertidal zone. If you take the time, who knows what surprises you'll discover? Each visit to the intertidal area at low tide can offer exciting discoveries. Even the casual observer will find common ochre sea stars in an array of colors and green anemones that look like flowers from another planet. Also obvious may be a wide variety of shelled creatures including snails, chitons and limpets. You may see a snail shell scurry off to the shadows of a pool, the sign of a hermit crab that has claimed a discarded shell as its temporary home. Look closer and you may find more exotic varieties of sea stars such as the sunflower star that can grow to the size of a large pizza pan with more than 20 legs. You may start to see varieties of sea slugs known as nudibranchs that can be found in a rainbow of bold and startling colors. In some intertidal areas purple spiked urchins, the size of softballs, fill the pools and crevices. Like Nature's "grab bag," you never know what you might get. On one visit I was surprised to find an octopus and another time a three-foot skate. Tread carefully in these fragile areas. Walk only on sand and bare rock to avoid destroying the life here and never remove any creature from its home. Take the time and look closely. What will you discover?
Mysteries at the Edge of the Ocean