Adapted from the 1979 Intertidal Life of Bartlett Cove Publication
When the tides are high, the shimmering cover of the ocean hides an entire vibrant world of organisms beneath its surface. The intertidal zone is mesmerizing contradiction of thriving, colorful life and the harsh conditions that they withstand. Take a walk along the coast at low tide to uncover the covert struggles of predation, survival, and balance that play out in this microcosm of life.
The shores of Bartlett Cove can be visited during any low tide, but the level of a low tide varies greatly from day to day. On some days, even at low water, many of the most interesting organisms will be submerged. About every two weeks, however, the tides cycle through extreme highs and lows, offering an exceptional chance to discover the intertidal world.
In the summer, a morning walk when the tide is lowest is the best time to see many of the marine creatures that populate in the tidal pools of Bartlett Cove. One of the most interesting areas to explore is along the channel running from along the beach near the park headquarters. The lagoon channel can be waded at extreme low tide, but quickly fills back in as the tide comes in. It’s easy to become stranded on Brown Island if not careful! The channel leading out from Bartlett River has a rich community as well and is worth a visit. The floating docks have many kinds of interesting plant and animal life to observe as well.
The marine intertidal community is a well-defined, diverse and important assemblage of plants and animals. Many of the organism found in the Bartlett Cove intertidal can also be found as far south as California. While unique, the intertidal zone is not an isolated community and even a casual observer will note that many terrestrial organisms frequently come into the intertidal to forage. Perhaps the most obvious of these are the many shorebirds which depend on the intertidal as a source of food. A patient observer may also note several terrestrial mammals foraging regularly in the intertidal. Nearly every animal in Glacier Bay has been observed in the intertidal, including river otters, sea otters, short-tailed weasels, mink, coyote, black bear, and wolves.
When exploring these areas, keep in mind the impact you may have on the intertidal life and choose your steps carefully.