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When tides ebb, go with the flow to a tide pool

In “Cannery Row,” writer John Steinbeck’s description of low tide on a rocky beach is surely based on his own tidepooling experiences. He describes how “ …the little water world becomes quiet and lovely… the bottom becomes fantastic with hurrying, fighting, feeding, breeding animals.” His portrayal of tide pool life, compared with more recent results from “trampling” studies (research into the negative impacts on tide pools from an abundance of sightseers and harvesters), highlights that this edge of the sea has been seriously depleted since Steinbeck’s day. Though marine life is now more limited, particularly on urban rocky beaches, interesting discoveries can still be made by those who are patient and focused. Here’s a sampling from my recent tide pool explorations.


— Judith Lea Garfield, naturalist and underwater photographer, has authored two natural history books about the underwater park off La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores. Send comments to