Life In the Intertidal

Cabrillo BannerLife in the Rocky Intertidal Zone

Low Tide
                                                   Low Tide

Tidepools provide a home for many animals. They are created by the changing water level, or tides. The high energy waves makes this a harsh habitat, but the animals living here have adapted over time. When the earth, sun and moon align during the full and new moon we have extreme high and low tides. Generally, there are two high tides and two low tides a day. An example of low and high tide is seen on the right.

High Tide
                                                      High Tide

There are three zones within the tidepools: the high zone, the middle zone, and the low zone. Animals are distributed based on their adaptations to different living (competition and predation) and non living (wave action and water loss) factors.  The tidepools at Cabrillo are protected and have been monitored by the National Park Service since 1990. You may notice bolts in the rocky intertidal, these are used to assist scientists in gathering data to monitor changes.

Tidepool Etiquette:

Human impact can hurt the animals. Some animals may die if moved even a few inches from where they are found. Federal law prohibits collection and removal of any shells, rocks and marine specimens. Also, be aware of the changing tides, slippery rocks and unstable cliffs.

Have fun exploring!

Photos are not to scale. Thank you to the Cabrillo VIPs for most of these photos.

The best time to visit the tidepools is during the new or full moon; a negative low tide is recommended for the best exploring.

If you are interested in learning more, visit the tidepool education table or volunteer to help protect this unique and beautiful place.

For volunteer opportunities contact:


Last revised 16-Jan-21