There is no greater joy than the exhilaration of children as they discover the wonders of the world about them. And what greater pleasure could there be than to be at your child’s side, guiding their exploration of nature’s marvelous creatures unveiled in The Sea Ranch tide pools? As an educator myself, I want help you instruct your child to be a good steward of our planet. Therefore, gathered here are teaching tips and information about the incredible creatures commonly found in The Sea Ranch tide pools.
King Tides Make Tide-Pooling Even Better!
What better a Christmas present this winter than King Tides for tide pooling. The next winter California King Tides dates are January 11 & 12, 2024 and February 9, 2024.
King Tides bring our most extreme high tides of 7+ ft. It also bring the lowest tides, making it perfect for tide pooling.
While the term “King Tide” isn’t a scientific term, it is used to describe very high tides, caused when there is alignment of the gravitational pull between sun, moon, and Earth. When King Tides occur during floods or storms, water levels can rise higher and have the potential to cause great damage to the coastline and coastal property.
- occur naturally and regularly,
- are predictable and expected, and
- are not an everyday occurrence.
Watch this video from the Exploratorium explaining King Tides. Learn more here
Before You Go
Always check the tides charts before you go to assure the tides are low and tide pooling is safe for you and your children. As a guest at Sea Ranch Abalone Bay you can find tide charts in our digital Guidebook. You can also find tide charts on our website here.
Quick Tips for Sharing Sea Ranch Tide Pools with Your Child
To make the most of nature’s classroom for your child here are a few suggestions.
Have background information ready to share.
Depending on what your child already knows you may need to give them a brief overview of oceans and tide pools.
Prepare your child for the anticipation of further discovery.
As you and your child look out Abalone Bay’s window or take a walk along the ocean bluff suggest visit to the beaches below where ocean animals can actually be seen. If your child has visited the beach and tide pools before, ask him what he recalls about that visit. Have your child become your teacher by sharing his wealth of knowledge. Build the excitement of discovery by showing them photos of animals that you may see in the tide pools. Then invite your child to become an oceanographer for a day by making a scavenger list of possible animals and plants (fauna and flora) they may discover.
A word of caution.
Before you go on your discovery walk, review with your child the “Rules of the Tide Pools” posted here. Most importantly stress to your child to never turn your back to the ocean. Even though the tide may be low, waves can still be high and knock your child over. The water and any exposed seaweed also make the rocky floor extremely slippery.
What are Tides?
Tides are long slow waves caused by the combined effects of gravitational forces of the Moon, Sun, and rotation of the Earth. The depth of those waves will rise and fall of sea levels twice a day. When water moves up onto the beach it’s called high tide and when it goes back down, it’s low tide. Tidal currents or the movement in the water are caused by the tides that ebb (during a falling tide) and flood (during a rising tide).
On occasion, the tide levels have been known to be extreme. They are known by the unscientific name of king tides.
What are Tide Pools?
The environment you and your child will be exploring in The Sea Ranch tide pools is the rocky intertidal habitat. The term “intertidal” refers to the area between the lowest low tides and the highest high tides. This is where tide pools form.
A tide pool is a puddle of water remaining in the crevices and indentations of the shoreline rocks when the ocean recedes. This occurs as the tide turns from high tide to low tide. The ocean’s tides change twice a day. The seawater that is trapped can be either small, shallow puddles found high up on the shore, or huge, deep holes nearer to the sea. As the tides flow out ocean plants (flora) and sea animals (fauna) that make the intertidal zone their home or “habitat” remain exposed to the air or captured in nature’s mini-aquariums.
Tide pools are located in the “intertidal zones.” These are the areas hidden under the water by the sea at high tides, during storms, and may receive spray from wave action.
Coastal areas with tide pools have:
- Rocky shorelines that are hard enough to resist the weathering forces of the waves, and
- Wave action by the sea that has enough energy to carry away the sand that would otherwise fill the pools.
Mendonoma Coast (the coastline between Mendocino and Sonoma Counties) and Sea Ranch have both! But its steep cliffs often make it a challenge to get to the beaches and Sea Ranch tide pools.
Where Can You Find Sea Ranch Tide Pools?
Luckily Sea Ranch has made many of its beaches accessible for you and your child by building staircases to them.
Maps of the trails to the various beaches at Sea Ranch are available for guests staying at Abalone Bay. You may also purchase trail maps at The Sea Ranch Association Office.
Public beach access is offered at:
- Bluff Top Trail – 3 miles one way – Runs along the headlands from Walk On Beach to Gualala Point Regional Park.
- Walk on Beach Trail – .25 miles one way – Passes through a large Monterey cypress grove to a quarter-mile beach reached by a bluff-top staircase.
- Shell Beach Trail – .65 miles one way – Runs through pines and meadow to a wide, sandy beach with sea rocks and tide pools. Small boats can be carried to the ocean via a beach ramp.
- Stengel Beach Trail – .12 miles one way – Short path lined with cypress trees leads to a wooden staircase and a small beach. Look for seasonal waterfalls on the cliffs. Stengel has the largest parking area of the public trails, with room for a dozen cars.
- Pebble Beach Trail – .27 miles one way – Weaves through pines and meadow to a sandy cove reached by stairs.
- Black Point Trail – .25 miles one way – Crosses the bluffs to a long, curving beach reached by a steep staircase.
Private beach access:
Smuggler’s Cove and Ohlson Beach beaches are closest to Abalone Bay. Each has staircase access. Beach accesses to these beaches are limited to Sea Ranch owners and their guests (including Abalone Bay vacation rental guests).
Just before Smugglers Cove, and just outside of the protected Marine Habitat is a rocky intertidal flat where we often explore tide pools and fish.
Again a very serious word of caution –
This area can be slippery and dangerous. I would not recommend this area for small children.
What equipment is needed?
Equipment to explore tide pools is very simple:
- shoes that gripe the wet rocks (old tennis shoes ),
- a current tide book
- an inquiring mind
To make a day of it consider packing a picnic.
And don’t forget your camera to record the expressions of delight when your child first encounters a starfish or perhaps a small octopus. We’d love to have you share those photos too! Just leave us a comment below or share them on our Facebook page.
How to Explore the shoreline with an “Underwater Viewer”
National Geographic offers a series of Family Challenges to get outside and explore the amazing biodiversity of microhabitats with crafts and save-the-Earth tips. Their second challenge shows kids the importance of the shorelinewhich provides an active habitat for wildlife and provides stability to the water’s edge. The challenge’s DIY project helps them make an underwater viewer that allows them to explore this important microhabitat. It also focuses on sharing with kids the importance of the shoreline, which provides an active habitat for wildlife and provides stability to the water’s edge. To learn how to make this clever viewer whether on vacation or at home click here.
California Junior Ranger Tide Pool Videos, Virtual Walks, and Scavenger Hunts
California State Parks has created some new and exciting learning experiences including Junior Ranger videos, virtual walks, and scavenger hunts. Visit the links below and explore the bounty of opportunities available. While these videos show case a southern California beach, the information and learning from it is applicable to our own beaches in Sea Ranch and elsewhere.
Learn more here.
Share your experiences!
Do you have any handy tips to share? We’d love to hear what you have done to make exploring Sea Ranch’s tide pools fun and memorable activity for you and your children. Please post them below along with your photos. We’d love to chat with you about your excursions and discoveries on Facebook too!
Other North Coast State Parks with Opportunities for Viewing Tide Pools
Teaching Tools for Tide Pools