Lion's Mane Jelly

A "tiny" Lion's Mane Jelly next to the dock in Friday Harbor

The Salish Sea is not just the home to many cetacean species like the Orcas, Dall’s Porpoises, and Humpback Whales but a whole menagerie of cool creatures. If you have the opportunity to visit one of the many coastal parks on the islands I definitely recommend tide-pooling. Some great places on San Juan Island are Lime Kiln State Park, Cattle Point, and False Bay. Since we’re pretty far north up here, the tide swing (the vertical difference between the lowest low tide of the day and the highest high tide) is considerable. As the tide falls there are a ton of marine invertebrates that become exposed as their realm recedes.

There is so much to see! Invertebrates are all the animals that live in our world that do not have a backbone (or an internal skeleton for that matter), and the North Pacific has some record breaking invertebrates that you can possibly see in the many rocky tide-pools. The largest species of Jelly (formerly known as jellyfish) lives here, the Lion’s Mane Jelly. They can have a bell diameter of more than 6 feet and tentacles longer than 120 ft. don’t touch! But do look they are bright red and are one of the most beautiful things to see swimming. Another jelly that isn’t as big but still pretty large is the Fried Egg Jelly, and they look exactly like their name implies (Well sometimes they look a bit poached instead).

Gumboot Chiton in San Juan Islands

Gumboot Chiton at Lime Kiln State Park

Enough about the swimmers! Jellies are technically part of the pelagic (open-ocean), The majority of the intertidal is clinging to the rocky shores or the sandy bottoms. For example, chitons! Chitons are mollusks just like oysters, clams, or snails, but their shell consists of 8 plates that cover their backsides as they scrape algae off the rocks. This area has the largest of all the Chitons! It is called the Gumboot or Giant Pacific Chiton, and it can be 2 ft. long! These guys also look a bit weirder than their smaller counterparts since they decided to grow thick pinkish-red tissue over their protective plates.

Sea Cucumber in the Salish Sea

Red Sea Cucumber at Lime Kiln State Park

There are also so many more things, like sea cucumbers, sea stars, so many barnacles, sea slugs, the most colorful nudibranchs, and so much more. Come check it out just watch out for those Giant Pacific Octopuses!


Until next tide,


Naturalist Erick

M/V Sea Hawk

San Juan Outfitters