Exploring the Tidepools
Flowering anemones, starfish, chitons and crustaceans create an underwater paradise ripe for exploration. What better place to find these amazing creatures than Whatcom County beaches! Summer is the perfect time for exploring tidepool life in the Northwest, and children are the most enthusiastic of explorers. Whatcom County has a number of access points where children and adults alike are welcome to cruise the beach, search for lost treasures and take in the natural beauty. Remember though that these beautiful systems are fragile and vulnerable to human impact. A strict code of beach etiquette must accompany any excursion to these sensitive areas.
Here are some general guidelines for exploring marine areas:
- Leave animals and plants where you see them. All organisms play an important role in the marine ecosystem, even empty shells and rocks may provide homes for hermit crabs, barnacles and mussels.
- Replace rocks to their original positions after looking under them. Animals that live on the underside of the rock may die if exposed to sun and air.
- Do not move animals from one pool to another. Marine organisms reside within limited areas of the intertidal zone. An organism that flourishes farther out at low tide may not survive if brought nearer to shore.
- When walking along the beach at low tide avoid stepping on barnacles, mussels and limpets. These creatures, although temporarily out of the water, are still alive, waiting for the next high tide to cover them and bring them food.
- Leave the beach cleaner than you found it! Plastics and other garbage deposited by beachcombers or washed ashore may be mistaken for food or entrap and strangle marine organisms. This rule should be practiced when visiting any environment!
There are a number of public beach access points throughout Whatcom County. In Bellingham explorers can visit Marine Park, Boulevard Park, and Little Squalicum Creek. South of Bellingham on Chuckanut Drive, Larrabee State Park offers magnificent sweeps of shoreline. Wildcat Cove, Teddybear Cove and Clayton Beach are excellent areas to investigate with kids in this area. North of Bellingham, beachcombers can explore the shorelines at Semiahmoo Park, Birch Bay State Park, Marine Park (City of Blaine), and Lighthouse Park. For a fun, hands-on learning opportunity visit the touch tank and aquariums at the Marine Life Center at the Squalicum Harbor Center.