Extreme low tides offer chance for a close look at shoreline critters

dsneed@thetribunenews.comDecember 31, 2013 

From now through Friday, San Luis Obispo County will experience extreme tides, a phenomenon that can pose a danger to the unwary but also provides excellent opportunities for exploring tide pools.

On New Year’s Day, tides will range from a low of -1.6 at 4:13 p.m. to a high of 6.9 at 8:59 p.m.

Another extreme low tide of -1.5 will occur Thursday at 4:58 p.m.

Daytime extreme low tides allow beachgoers to view sections of rocky shoreline rarely exposed to sunlight, said Nick Franco, State Parks superintendent in San Luis Obispo County.

Good tide pooling is to be found in most parts of Montaña de Oro State Park, Shell Beach and Estero Bluffs State Park near Cayucos, particularly north of San Geronimo Road.

“Those are the most accessible areas and offer a diversity of critters to look at,” Franco said.

Sea stars, mussels, barnacles, crabs and small fish can be found in most tide pools. As you get further out, you may see a larger tide pool creature, such as a sea hare, gumboot chiton or an octopus.

In order to stay safe and minimize resource damage, Franco recommends that tide poolers follow several rules. Always face the ocean so you can see the waves coming. Also, it’s OK to touch tide pool critters but do not pry them off the rocks.

Sometimes called king tides, extreme tides occur when the sun and moon’s gravitational pulls reinforce one another when the moon is closest to the Earth. King tides will occur through Friday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Extreme high tides can cause inundation of beach-access infrastructure including trails, beach stairs and parking lots. Access to some coves can be blocked at high tides.

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