At Dash Point on June 16, 2022. Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing

At Dash Point on June 16, 2022. Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing

All that the tides reveal: Puget Sound’s hidden intertidal world

Exploring King County beaches during the lowest tide in the last 13 years.

We as Puget Sounders are able to enjoy many experiences and treasures in our region — things like temperate rainforests in the Olympic Peninsula, volcanic mountains that neighbor the sea, and some of the world’s most fertile farming lands paved by ancient glaciers and biblical floods.

But among the most special treasures, and maybe the most taken for granted, is the Puget Sound itself.

On June 15 and 16, beaches in our Puget Sound region had tides lower than any in the last 13 years. Thanks to the lunar nodal cycle, tides dropped more than 4 feet below the average tidal level.

Depending on the slope of the beach, a low tide of that magnitude revealed hundreds of feet of sea bed that can be explored without a wetsuit or a scuba respirator.

The Puget Sound is one of the most unique inland bodies of sea water anywhere in the world. The bedrock that props up its seabed was once carved out of ancient mountain peaks by giant Ice Age glaciers that long ago would have covered every major city in the region with thousands of feet of ice. The salty blue and green waters that we know as the Puget Sound is one of the most biologically diverse marine ecosystems in the world. It’s also a world famous scuba diving attraction for that reason.

At Dash Point on June 16, 2022. Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing

Don’t be afraid to get wet

Have you ever walked on or driven by the shores of the Puget Sound and wondered what kind of otherworldly creatures were swimming, crawling, squirming, gliding, slithering, slinking, surviving and thriving just 30 yards away from the shoreline?

The Earth, the Moon, and the Sun have literally aligned to allow us terrestrial dwellers a rare peek into the underwater world. All you need to enjoy it is a pair of shoes that can get wet and a sense of child-like wonder.

On June 16, we explored the exposed sea beds off the shores of Dash Point State Park. As the peak of the low tide approached in the early afternoon, we slushed and tredged across hundreds of yards of sun-kissed sea bed to see what the tide would reveal.

At Dash Point on June 16, 2022. Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing

We were not alone in our interest to explore the treasures of the intertidal zone. Many others combed the beach around us. Folks young and old craned their necks downward and scrutinized every rock, pool and sandbar, hoping to catch a glimpse of a sea creature, out of place and stranded by the sea’s tidal rhythm.

The beach at Dash Point was more sandy than rocky. There were very few boulders. In my experience tidepooling in the Pacific Northwest, boulders can typically turned over to reveal a community of sea critters using the rock and a tiny pool of water as shelter from the unforgiving sun.

In place of boulders, this beach had stretching beds of sea grass. The grass looked downtrodden and flattened outside of the water. Seagulls and herons picked through the grass at the edge of the receding shoreline, scouring the aquatic foliage for crabs and other invertebrates that were not quick enough to escape with the tide.

Along with plenty of crabs smaller than the size of a quarter, we found larger Dungeness crabs that died and were left to bake in the sun. We also found the molted exoskeletons of kelp crabs and what seemed like a never ending amount of clam shells, each one a relic of a life of a mollusk hunted by predators both marine and terrestrial.

At Dash Point on June 16, 2022. Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing

At Dash Point on June 16, 2022. Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing

One of those predators, and one of the top predators in the Puget Sound’s seagrass bed ecosystems, is the moon snail. They are gigantic mollusks larger than the size of the average fist. Their soft body is so large that it cascades out of their baseball-sized shell.

Despite their large size, they can be difficult to find because they burrow under the sand as the tide recedes, but evidence of them can be found strewn across the beach.

They feed on clams and shellfish by using a specialized drill-like tooth called a radula, which it uses to bore a hole through the hard shell of a clam or mussel so it can feed itself on the soft tissues protected inside. One can identify clams that have fallen victim to the moon snail by a very smoothly grinded hole on the shell.

Many beachgoers have probably noticed the moon snail egg collars left across the shore, but may not have known what they were. We found several dozen on our trip.

They are ring-shaped collars that are gray like the sand they are made of. The snail uses sand and a mucus excretion to form a structure to lay their eggs upon. To the touch, they feel smooth and waxy, almost like fruit leather.

The moon snail is one of many alien-like creatures that may be revealed by the changing Puget Sound tide, there are many different sea creatures to be seen, felt and discovered, but you may have to get your hands and feet dirty.

At Dash Point on June 16, 2022. Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing

In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

At Dash Point on June 16, 2022. Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing

At Dash Point on June 16, 2022. Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing

At Dash Point on June 16, 2022. Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing.

At Dash Point on June 16, 2022. Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing.

More in News

Dr. Faisal Khan. Courtesy of King County.
Dr. Faisal Khan appointed as next King County health director

Dennis Worsham will continue to serve as interim director until September 6.

King County experts discuss extreme heat mitigation plan

The plan includes improving infrastructure and communications to prevent future disasters.

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterburg (File Photo)
King County Prosecuting Attorney vows to protect reproductive freedom

Dan Satterberg joins over 80 prosecutors from around the country in their pledge.

King County approves emergency grant after U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

Washington is expecting an influx of people seeking abortions from out of state.

Fedor Osipov, 15, flips into Steel Lake in Federal Way during last year's heatwave on June 28, 2021. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Heatwave expected to hit King County

Temperatures will likely reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, June 26, and Monday, June 27.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII: Examining Auburn police officer’s grim tattoos

Episode 5 in special podcast series that explores Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

File photo.
Former Bellevue teacher sentenced in federal court over child pornography

Department of Justice says the man had 1,764 images of child sexual abuse in his possession.

Photo courtesy of King County.
Officials urge caution when swimming this summer

Cold spring temperatures and larger than normal snowpack have created dangerous conditions

File photo.
Bellevue man charged in 2019 assault that left a man dead on a Redmond roadway

After a two-year investigation, Bradley Hibbard was arrested for murder in the second degree.

Most Read