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Tidepool FAQ's
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Sea Stars at Ecola State Park
Sea Stars at Ecola State Park
Go back to the Main Rocky Shores Page to see a list of related publications, websites and a list of Oregon rocky shores contacts.

Be sure to visit our new tidepool site!

What do you mean by "rocky shores?"
View at Cape Perpetua
View at Cape Perpetua
  • Rocky shores are sections of the coast in which the substrate (bottom type) is primarily made up of some type of rock.  Types of rocky shores include tidepools, cliffs, offshore rocks, and submerged reefs.
  • In Oregon, rocky shores make up approximately 41% of the shoreline.
  • The type of rock varies along the coast with volcanic basalt being the main type on the north coast and the south coast being made up of predominantly sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.

What are tidepools and what makes them special?
Sea Urchins at Sunset Bay State Park
Sea Urchins at Sunset Bay State Park
  • Tidepools are created when the tide goes out from rocky coastal areas, leaving water in crevices and holes. 
  • These intertidal (between tides) places support a unique and diverse assortment of plants and animals.
  • The organisms that live in the intertidal areas have to be able to withstand a wide variety of fluctuating environmental conditions.  For example, when it rains, they can get inundated with fresh water.  When it gets sunny, the smaller pools can get very warm or conversely, very cold during the winter months.  Some species, like those living closest to land (and further up on the rocks), have to be able to survive for long periods of time without any water. For example, barnacles may be exposed for many hours without any water reaching them.  Then, when the tide comes in, the same organisms must survive the harsh conditions of ocean life.
  • Tidepool species are specially adapted for life in intertidal areas, which makes them unique and very special.
  • Oregon’s intertidal areas have such high species diversity that they have been compared to tropical rainforests.

What type of organisms may I find?
Anthopleura anemone
Anthopleura anemone
  • Cnidarians (sea anemones)
  • Molluscs (mussels, snails, limpets, chitons and maybe even an octopus!)
  • Arthropods (crabs and barnacles)
  • Echinoderms (sea stars and urchins)
  • Fish (tidepool sculpins)
  • Tunicates (sea squirts)
  • Birds (gulls, oystercatchers, shorebirds)
  • Algae (seaweed, kelp)
  • Marine mammals (seals, sea lions)
Oregon's new tidepool site has an interpretive guide to some of Oregon's most common species!

What is the best place/time to go tidepooling?
Overview at Seal Rock
Overview at Seal Rock
  • Oregon's new tidepool site has an interactive map of tidepool locations and lots more!
  • Oregon has many wonderful tidepools to explore.  Depending on where you are on the coast, many of Oregon’s state parks provide access to rocky shore areas. Customizable list of state parks. 
  • There are also places along the coast that have specialized interpretive programs (see the “where can I learn more?” section on this page).
  • The Oregon Coastal Atlas also has detailed information about all of Oregon's rocky shores.
  • A detailed map of Oregon's rocky shores with information about access difficulty and directions, and some popular tidepools along the Oregon Coast. [PDF 2.3 MB]
  • Information about the Oregon Coast Trail includes detailed maps of sections along the whole coast.
  • Remember to keep an eye on the ocean at all times to prevent getting surprised by not only how fast the tide has come in, but also to be aware of sneaker waves and drift logs.  Also, try to wear comfortable shoes with good ankle support and grip. Oregon’s rocky areas are VERY slippery, even when it isn’t raining outside!  See: BEACH SAFETY TIPS. 
  • Beach safety tips brochure.
  • Please check the tide before you go! Click here for printable tide-booklet or visit the NOAA website for water level tidal predictions for stations along the coast or for actually observed tidal levels at selected stations.
  • The Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) also has predictions for South Beach, Oregon and a tidal adjustment table.

Is it okay to pick up and touch tidepool species?
Tidepools at Neptune SSV
Tidepools at Neptune SSV
  • While it may seem fun to do so, it is best not to poke, prod, pry off, squash, collect or otherwise injure plants and animals of the rocky shore.  If you want to see how something feels, it is best to first wet your hands then do so very gently.  Prying animals off rocks can tear off their arms and feet and squeeze out their organs!  For some species (like mature mussels), not only can they not reattach themselves (and will die) once pulled off a rock, it can also take years for others to grow back.
  • Every tidepool species has its place in the rocky shore ecosystem.   A rocky shore inhabitant’s tolerance to changing temperature, desiccation (drying out) and other natural forces such as battering surf, along with everyday things such as how they feed and reproduce determines where in the rocky shore it lives.
    • Moving something (even a small distance) can disrupt the delicate balance and even kill it.
    • Different kinds of organisms live on the top and bottom sides of rocks, so if you do disrupt a rock, please put it back the way you found it.  Please, do not leave rocks overturned, as this will likely result in the death of all its inhabitants.
  • Try your best to step on bare rock and sand when possible, not only will you be safer but so will the species that call tidepools their home.  That crunching sound beneath your feet is probably a barnacle; if it sounds “squishy” it may be a sea anemone.
  • Some species have natural defenses to protect themselves from predators.  These defense mechanisms can sometimes hurt humans.
    • Anemones have stinging cells called nematocysts that they use to stun prey and scare off predators.  Some people can have allergic reactions to anemones.
    • Crabs have very sharp and strong claws that allow them to protect themselves and gather food.  They will run away and hide as you approach, however if you decide to pick one up, be very careful!
  • While tidepool creatures are accustomed to the natural forces of wind and waves, these actions are quite different than that of a human foot or hand.  Scientists have shown that human use of tidepools can have a negative effect on the creatures that live there. 
  • The best way to be a good tidepool steward is to observe the species in their natural environment and take pictures to remember your experience.  Also, there are many interpretive programs, some of which offer touch-tank experiences (see the “where can I learn more” section on this page).

Can I take home a souvenir from my tidepool trip?
Lemon Nudibranch
Lemon Nudibranch
  • This depends on where you are along the Oregon coast.  In some places, called Marine Gardens, Research Reserves, and Habitat Refuges, it is not legal to take certain species out of their natural environment.  In other areas, while it may be legal, it is not advisable to bring things home, especially living creatures.
  • Instead of a sea star or other living creature, which will die rapidly once removed from its home; think about taking a photograph to remember your tidepool excursion. Not only will it not smell when it dies, but also it will last much longer and retain the beauty of life.
  • Even things that look dead and “useless” have a role in rocky shore ecosystems.  Shells provide homes for hermit crabs; rocks provide a surface on which barnacles and anemones can grow.  Hundreds of thousands of people visit the Oregon coast every year, so while taking “just one” may not seem like a big deal, imagine if everyone you know took home something every time they came to that same tidepool to explore. 
  • Please, if possible, leave only footprints and take home lasting memories so future generations of Oregonians and out of state visitors can enjoy our rocky shore treasures.
  • Check Oregon Department of Wildlife (ODFW) Fishing Regulations for information about necessary permits, restrictions and closed areas. These are available at all ODFW offices, places where fishing licenses are sold and many sporting good stores. You can also get them online. 
Where and when is best for spotting whales on the Oregon Coast?
  • Although cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) do not live in tidepool areas, they are often visible from the same Oregon State Parks you may visit to go tidepooling.  The most commonly spotted species is the grey whale, Eschrichtius robustus.  However, visitors will occasionally spot humpbacks, orcas, and harbor porpoises.
  • The best time of year to spot cetaceans varies from species to species.  Grey whales are best spotted in the spring (March/April) or winter (November/December).  Humpbacks are best viewed in the summer and fall (July-October).  Orcas may occasionally be spotted from April-August and although not common, you may see harbor porpoises throughout the year.
  • Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) has three weeks that are dedicated whale watching weeks.  Please visit the Whale Watch Spoken Here website for more whale-watching information, including what sites to visit for best viewing opportunities.  Some of the more popular sites include Depoe Bay, Yaquina Head, Cape Arago and Port Orford.  From October 1 through April 30 OPRD has "discovery season" which means that parks have reduced rates!  Not only are parks much less crowded, but this is also when the winter whale watching week occurs.

Where can I learn more?
Several places along the Oregon coast offer interpretive programs that give you the opportunity to learn more about the species and their habitats. Several have a touch tank and other fun educational opportunities.
Several Oregon State Parks offer tidepool walks. Check out the events page for more information.
To learn more about marine mammals in Oregon, visit the ODFW marine mammal research website.
BLM has produced a video on whale watching on the Oregon Coast and is available online. BLM whale watch video 
North Coast
  • Haystack Rock (in Cannon Beach, near Seaside) has seasonal interpreters (Haystack Rock Awareness Program) that offer an educational display, microscopes, touch tanks and tidepool rangers to answer questions;
Central Coast
South Coast
  • Shoreline Education for Awareness offers programs in the spring at Coquille Point (Bandon), and at the Simpson Reef overlook, near Coos Bay in the summer;
  • Sunset Bay State Park (near Coos Bay) has seasonal rocky shore interpreters that offer campground and tidepool programs;
  • Harris Beach State Park (near Brookings) has seasonal rocky shore interpreters that offer campground and tidepool programs.
The NOAA Office of Protected Resources information about marine wildlife viewing.
A map of wildlife watching opportunities on the coast has been produced by the USFWS.
Information about Oregon's Rocky Shores can be found on the Oregon Coastal Atlas 

Oregon's new tidepool site has an interactive map of tidepool locations, interpretive species guide, photos, videos and lots more!