Doheny State Beach Tide Pools - October 2010

I'd been wanting to visit Doheny State Beach for over a year and finally got some friends to journey down there with me. It's about halfway between LA and San Diego near the town of Dana Point. The tide that day was -0.63 and it was lowest around 5:15 which made it easy to plan on catching the sunset at the beach. We left LA around 2pm, hoping not to catch any traffic and we made really good time, arriving there around 3:30. Here's where we were:

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Here is some info about the tide pools at Doheny State Beach and here is the official CA state parks site. Luckily, this park took the day parking pass I had received for becoming a member of the CA State Parks. Otherwise, the parking fee was $15.

Unfortunately, this is one of the most polluted beaches in Southern California and there were signs warning people of the high bacteria level in the water. I would caution you not to go barefoot. There is nothing like accidentally cutting your foot in contaminated water!

We ended up getting there early, but the tide was already pretty low so we headed out to the pools. These tide pools were similar to the ones at Leo Carillo in Malibu with the smallish rocks. The fact that the pools aren't stationary (like they are in the rocky bottom of Rancho Palos Verdes and San Pedro) means that there are fewer urchins, anemone and sea stars. We actually didn't see any of those things at all! Not even one!

I'm always surprised how different each location is and how different the wildlife there can be. Here it was similar to Point Dume (Dume Cove) in that everything was very small. If you wanted to see some action you just had to squat and look at each pool for a bit and you'd start to see small shrimp-like creatures, hermit crabs of various types, snails (mostly Tegulas), and even some tiny sea cucumbers which I hadn't seen before.

so many places for tide pool creatures to hide

Order Amphipoda

hermit crab

my first sea cucumber (Class Holothuroidea) sighting! It was so tiny, maybe a half inch.

another sea cucumber I believe

We also saw the underside of a chiton (which I talk about in these posts) and this strange cluster of worm-like things which may or may not be the feeding tentacles of what are called spaghetti worms. I had never before seen sea snails moving around but this day they were relatively active (for snails!). Also, one of the people with me saw a sea hare squirt the bluish dye it releases when it feels threatened because someone (not with us) pushed it off a rock into the water. She said it was the most beautiful burgundy color in the water.

the underside of a chiton

feeding tentacles of 2 spaghetti worms?

Genus Tegula
Those little black things at the bottom are the snails antennae. So cute!

Here's another photo of one on the move

Also, just the plant life and shells and rocks here were the most vibrant colors - greens and pinks and purples and reds.

And the big winner of the day was all of the birds! Hundreds of sea gulls plus dozens of pelicans and snowy egrets galore. I had never seen so many egrets in one place - 7 or 8 just feeding next to each other. I even saw a new bird that I hadn't seen before - a white-faced ibis. Pretty amazing to watch them eating, especially the ibis with its super long beak.

White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi) -
click on the photo for a closer look

When we got tired of peering into puddles we started to overturn some of the rocks in the dryer area and noticed that there were crabs under almost every rock. And different types too - striped shore crabs, porcelain crabs and even one that I think was a blackclaw crestleg crab.

striped shore crab
(Pachygrapsus crassipes)

porcelain crab of some sort
(Family Porcellanidae)

blackclaw crestleg crab I think
(Lophopanopeus bellus)

By the time the sun started to set we were tired and hungry but we stuck around for some of the pretty bits, some of us scrambling along the top of the breakwater at the marina to get a better look. Then we headed to Laguna Beach for dinner.

I had hoped to spot an octopus, navanax, abalone or bubble snail as I'd seen in photos and videos online. Even though we didn't see those, it was a great way to spend the first Sat. in Oct. You should really try it some time.

Click here for more photos from this location.