How to See Tidepools on the Oregon Coast
Published: 02/03/2014  Updated: 08/16/2019
Jewel-toned anemones and urchins can be seen in tide pools along the Oregon coast.
Jewel-toned anemones and urchins can be seen in tide pools along the Oregon coast.  photo by Gary Hayes

When the water is drawn back during spring and summer minus tide times, visitors can explore the turbulent meeting place between land and sea.

Throughout the spring and summer season on the Oregon coast several periods of minus tides offer a small window of time to catch a glimpse of intertidal communities, to be dazzled by jewel-toned plants and animals and marvel at their very existence living on the edge.

The intertidal marine life found at the edge of the Pacific Ocean is one of the richest, most diverse habitats on Earth. Plants and animals living along these shores have developed a unique niche, to withstand the environmental rigors at the edge of the sea where wind and water continually pounding at the rocks, these marine environments are submerged in water at high tide and exposed at low tide. Nevertheless, the rocky Oregon coastline teems with life. This is a place of rich biological diversity and endless wonder.

Unveiled at periods of low tides, tidepools are created when the tide goes out from rocky coastal areas, leaving water in crevices and holes and exposing a fascinating variety of life forms. Sea stars, barnacles, urchins, anemones, mussels and sea snails thrive in these little pools; and one square foot may support thousand of these tenacious sea creatures.

Periods of minus tides also provides access to beaches, rocks and caves that are normally covered by water during other times of the year. Here there is a multitude of animals clinging to shear rock faces, waiting for the tide to reverse.

These areas are endlessly interesting and can be explored without any special knowledge or equipment. Tread carefully, exercise caution and let your eyes, camera and magnifying glass be your main tools for exploring these special seashore areas.

Plan Your Trip
Tide times vary up and down the coast. Plan your trip by using a site specific tide table. The best time to view intertidal creatures is close to the lowest tide. Starting in mid-April, low water times on the Oregon coast occur every month with the lowest minus tide occurring in mid-July. Tides of 0.0 feet and lower are best for tidepool viewing, however when the ocean is calm many intertidal areas can be observed at plus one or two foot tides. It is best to be in the intertidal area one hour before low tide.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife protects seven intertidal sites as "Marine Gardens." Many of these sites offer interpretive presentations and guided walks, on low tide weekends during the spring and summer.

Tidepool Etiquette
Tidepool organisms are very sensitive. Walk only on sand whenever possible and watch your step. Avoid walking on rocks for your safety and for the well being of these rocky shores inhabitants. Life-forms living on these rocks grow by inches and can die by your foot. Many of Oregon's popular tidepools have plenty of viewing opportunities at the sand-rock interface, where standing on rock can be avoided almost entirely. Always keep track of your surroundings and never turn your back on the ocean.

Observe, rather than capture. Slow down, look closely and watch patiently to observe the sea life in its home. Quietly watching a pool or gently moving seaweed aside will reveal organisms and behavior that would go unnoticed in a rush. Replace all the material you move, don't take it home, alive or dead. What happens in the tide pool, stays in the tide pool. Take pictures and leave only your footprints behind.

Best Tidepool Areas and Interpretive Programs
Oregon has many wonderful tidepools to explore. Depending on where you are on the coast, many of Oregon's state parks provide beach access to rocky shore areas. There are also places along the coast that have specialized interpretive programs. This is a fun way to learn more about tide pool species and their habitats. Some have touch tanks and other fun educational opportunities especially for kids.

Download an Oregon State Parks' tidepool brochure for a detailed map of Oregon's rocky shores with information about accessibility, directions and some popular tide pools along the Oregon Coast. Go to www.oregontidepools.org


How to See Tidepools on the Oregon Coast