Salish Sea and Olympic National Park Tidepool Tours

A group of about twelve Olympic National Park Ochre Stars, commonly called starfish, the center one is orange while the rest are different shades of purple

Tidepools are biodiversity hotspots

Discover colorful and bizarre tidepool animals with a former marine biology teacher on Olympic tidepool tours.

Local Salish Sea, Pacific Coast, and guide service rates on ONP ecotours

Timing your Salish Sea and Olympic National Park tidepool tour

Aggregating Anemone with pink-tipped tentacles outspread underwater

Salish Sea and Olympic National Park tidepools may only be visible for a few hours a day, therefore timing is critical.  Access to tidepools often occur over multiple days for a few hours but not all time periods offer good viewing.  In general, March to August offer the best opportunities for Salish Sea and Olympic National Park tidepool tours.  If you want to introduce school-aged children or young adults to this amazing underwater world, then consider planning your tidepool experience during spring break or as early as possible during summer vacation. 

Heermann's Gulls as seen on mussel beds during tidepool tours have dark gray bodies and bright orange black-tipped bills

Salish Sea and Olympic National Park Tidepool Description

Tidepools can be described as semi-permanent pools of water that create safe zones for viewing delicate tidepool animals.  The rocky shore visited by ExperienceOlympic offers some of the best viewing of tidepool animals and seaweed.  However, the popularity of tidepoolig (and lack of knowledge about them) means that we need to encourage others to leave no trace in the tidepools.

View of tidepool habitat, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and British Columbia

Olympic tidepools offers zones of intense biodiversity

Salish Sea and Olympic National Park tidepool exploration can be comparable to bird watching in the tropics during the dawn chorus. Your senses are heightened as you try to appreciate the layers of complexity surrounding you. Tidepool communities are both in competition and cooperation. The outstanding biodiversity witnessed on a rocky shore on the Salish Sea and in Olympic National Park is due to many factors including geology, maritime climate, and heavy waves.

Overhead view of a Belted Kingfisher flying low over the water

Good Olympic tidepooling experiences create everlasting memories

Salish Sea and Olympic National Park tidepool animals and seaweed live in particular tidal zones where they have adapted to survive during a low tide. Some of the more spectacular species can not spend much time outside the water and these are the animals we will specifically seek out on Salish Sea and Olympic National Park tidepool tours. If this will be your first time visiting tidepools, naturalist guided tidepool tours offer an excellent opportunity for fun, safe, informative, and ecological exploration.

Raccoon partially hidden on a rocky shore feeding with its small dexterous hands

Salish Sea biodiversity as seen on Olympic tidepool tours

The following tidepool animals and seaweed, mammals, birds, and plant lists were generated during 2012 tidepool tours on the Salish Sea. Read more about Olympic Peninsula Biodiversity to learn about how these lists were created and more about Olympic biodiversity in general.

Two darker-colored California Mussels among a bed of lighter-colored Goose Barnacles

Olympic animals identified on a June 5, 2012 in the Salish Sea (Strait of Juan de Fuca)

Red Encrusting Sponge, Purple Encrusting Hydrocoral, Giant Green Anemone, Giant Plumose Anemone, Northern Feather Duster Worm, Lined Chiton, Mossy Chiton, Black Katy Chiton, Shield Limpet, Blue Topsnail, Frilled Dogwinkle, Red Nudibranch, Monterey Dorid (nudibranch), California Mussel, Pacific Blue Mussel, Thatched Barnacle, Giant Barnacle, Acorn Barnacle, Goose Barnacle, Shield-backed Kelp Crab, Graceful Kelp Crab, Pygmy Rock Crab, Striped Sun Star, Pacific Blood Star, Mottled Star, Painted Sea Star, Ochre (Purple) Star or Common Sea Star, Sunflower Star, Green Sea Urchin, Purple Sea Urchin, Red Sea Urchin, Orange Sea Cucumber, Compound Tunicate (various species), Tidepool Snailfish, and Tidepool Sculpin.

Sea Staghorn Seaweed is purple-colored and resembles a sponge

Olympic seaweed identified on June 5, 2012

Sea Lettuce, Sea Moss, Sea Staghorn, Sugar Kelp, Split Kelp, Sea Cabbage, Seersucker, Old Growth Kelp, Feather Boa Kelp, Sea Palm, Bull Kelp, Rockweed, Little Rockweed, Northern Bladder Chain, Red Fringe, Encrusting Coralline Algae, Branching Coralline Algae (various genera), Sea Sacs, and Surfgrass (which is really a plant, but it grows in tidepools).

The Green Shore Crab feeds on green algae

Additional Olympic animals and seaweed identified on July 4, 2012

Bread Crumb Sponge, Purple Encrusting Sponge, Turgid Garland Hydroid, Aggregating Anemone, Painted Anemone, Rough Keyhole Limpet, Plate Limpet, Cuthona sp. (nudibranch), Leather Limpet (nudibranch “ally”), Giant Rock Scallop, Little Brown Barnacle, Shell Barnacle, Vosnesensky’s Isopod, California Beach Hopper, Flat Porcelain Crab, Graceful Decorator Crab, Yellow Shore Crab, Purple Shore Crab, Kelp Encrusting Bryozoan, Stalked Tunicate, Gunnel (unknown genera), and Winged Kelp.

A very large Giant Pacific Octopus showing its large body behind its gleaming white eyes and large white suction cups on two long tenticles

Additional specialty Olympic animals possible

Giant Pacific Octopus, less common nudibranchs, sea stars and anemones.

Strait of Juan de Fuca tidepool tours: bird list

Olympic birds heard or seen from hiking in the nearby forest and estuary on July 4, 2012

Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Caspian Tern, Band-tailed Pigeon, Belted Kingfisher, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Barn Swallow, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, American Robin, Swainson's Thrush, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson's Warbler, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, and American Goldfinch.

Close-up side view of a male Harlequin Duck in breeding plumage

Some additional Olympic birds viewed in the Salish Sea on August 4, 2012

Harlequin Duck, Surf Scoter, Black Oystercatcher, Pigeon Guillemot, and Rhinoceros Auklet.

Some additional Olympic birds possible

Common Loon, Long-tailed Duck, Bald Eagle, Black Turnstone, Rock Sandpiper, Heermann's Gull, Common Murre, and Marbled Murrelet.

River Otter swimming with only its head and large tail visible out of the water

Olympic mammal observed from nearby forest and meadows in 2012

Black-tailed Deer.

Additional Olympic mammal observed on the rocky shore on August 4, 2012

Raccoon.

Some additional Olympic mammals possible in the Strait of Juan de Fuca

River Otter, Harbor Seal, and Gray Whale.

Black-tailed deer with clear view of all black tail in a meadow full of daisies

Olympic plants observed from hiking in forest near the Strait of Juan de Fuca on June 5, 2012

Western Hemlock, Douglas-Fir, Western Redcedar, Red Alder, Bigleaf Maple, Pacific Madrone, Salal, Red Huckleberry, Common Snowberry, Oceanspray, Nootka Rose, Salmonberry, Thimbleberry, Trailing Blackberry, False Lily of the Valley, Spring Beauty, Stonecrop, Buttercup, Vetch, Sweet Cicely, Waterleaf, Oxeye Daisy, Stinging Nettle, Pacific Bleeding Heart, Starflower, Bedstraw, Bracken Fern and Sword Fern.

Read about tidepooling with Carolyn of ExperienceOlympic Guided Tours