Exploring Oregon Coast Tidepools
Oregon's coastline provides a mix of sandy beaches and rocky headlands. This mix creates a lot of opportunity to see a rich mix of sea life in coastal tidepools. Tidepools are found all along the 350+ mile coastline but many great viewing areas are easily accessible from state park and public scenic areas.
We were recently in Yachats and spent a few mornings exploring tide pools in the area. We enjoyed seeing chitons, snails, limpets, barnacles, sea stars, mussels, anemones, crabs and more! But there are many tidepool areas even closer to Portland including:
1) Ecola State Park - About two miles north of Cannon Beach. This area also offers access to the Clatsop Loop Trail which connects with the Tillamook Head Trail that we explored this February - a good trail for older children due to the elevation gain and length.
2) Oswald West State Park - About 10 miles south of Cannon Beach just off the 101. This is also one of our favorite camping spots and there is some great hiking in the area including a hike to Cape Falcon (about 3.5 miles round trip, uphill getting to the top but still a nice family hike).
If you are going to explore tide pools, be ready to get wet, wear some sensible shoes - maybe even some gloves, and be ready to do some scrambling on rocks to find some wonderful surprises!
Consult a tide table and plan your exploration to coincide with low tide - which means being on the coast in the morning. Watch out for exposed animals as you walk along. For the best viewing, head for the lowest tide pools that are closest to the ocean. In the lowest pools, you are likely to see the most activity as well as the greatest variety of animals. But be mindful of the tide location and of the ocean at all times - don’t let yourself get stranded or surprised by a rogue wave.
When viewing the pools, tread lightly and be respectful of the animals. Don’t pry any animals from their locations. A gentle touch on a sea star by a curious little girl (or excited adult) is not entirely out of line but try to avoid touching of the animals as much as possible.
Also, these are great areas for a picnic, so pack a meal to enjoy once your exploring is over. When you are ready to go, leave everything where you find it - except for garbage! Pack out any trash that you find (or any trash that you brought). It is never too early to instill some outdoor ethics in your kids.
One final practical item to keep in mind, many - but not all - parks require a day use fee. If you are going to hit more than a couple of parks/areas that require a fee, consider getting an Oregon Pacific Coast Passport which will give you unlimited access for 5 days for only $10. Have fun!