Great American Tide Pools

The Great American Tide pool in Pacific Grove was one of Edward Rickett’s favorite locales for finding specimens to study, sell, and preserve in both the Pacific Biological Laboratory and the Hopkins Marine Station. Tide pools are ecosystems that populate the liminal space between high and low tide. Life has bloomed in these slippery ecosystems, with the moon pulling and pushing the waterline to and fro, not always gently, but always wondrously.



 ©Steven Domingo 

It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.” - from The Log of the Sea of Cortez


Approximate location of the vast tide pool. © USGS The National Map



© Steven Domingo

Before the land rose out of the ocean, and became dry land, chaos reigned; and between high and low water mark, where she is partially disrobed and rising, a sort of chaos reigns still, which only anomalous creatures can inhabit.

Henry David Thoreau (1864,p.71)



                    © Ron Clavier



      © Steven Domingo



© Steven Domingo

"Doc was collecting marine animals in the Great Tide Pool on the tip of the Peninsula. It is a fabulous place: when the tide is in, a wave-churned basin, creamy with foam, whipped by the combers that roll in from the whistling buoy on the reef. But when the tide goes out the little water world becomes quiet and lovely. The sea is very clear and the bottom becomes fantastic with hurrying, fighting, feeding, breeding animals" CR 6


© Between Pacific Tides, Stanford University Press

What are tide pools?

Tide pools are depressions where water is trapped during low tides, forming small pools that provide habitat for numerous plants, invertebrates, and fish. These depressions are formed over geologic time through a combination of biological, physical, and chemical processes. Although the whole rocky intertidal is often referred to as the “tide pool area,” it is important to note that shelves and boulder fields surround the pools, and these also provide a great habitat for the multitude of organisms that call this zone home.”

“The intertidal zone -- the area between high and low tides -- is a harsh and unforgiving habitat, subject to the rigors of both the sea and the land. It has four distinct physical subdivisions based on the amount of exposure each gets -- the spray zone, and the high, middle, and lower intertidal zones. Each subzone has a characteristic and distinct biological community.”


These zones interested Ricketts and Steinbeck as scientists, but also as philosophers. Steinbeck wrote extensively about the commonalities between humans and fish, insects, and so on. He did not shy away from degrading or inhuman comparisons; he opened his mind to see commonalities amongst all communities. For more information about John Steinbeck's philosophies, please visit this page.


Between Pacific Tides by Edward Ricketts and Jack Calvin

Although it faced many hurdles on its way to publication Between Pacific Tides would become one of the seminal texts of marine biology. It offers a meticulous catalog of the ecologically vibrant rocky shores and tidal zones of the Pacific Coast. Stanford University Press is currently publishing the fifth edition.



Visit Cannery Row!

What was once Ocean Street has turned into a bustling place for tourists, full of shops and restaurants and bars, and it ends with with the great Monterey Bay Aquarium. Explore this guide!


Visit Pacific Biological Laboratories

The lab the Steinbeck's dear friend Edward Ricketts used is still intact, and has monthly tours of the facility. Check here for the next tour!