Constellation Park

Low Tide Adventure. Seattle, Washington

Constellation Park is really just one starting point for this low tide adventure. The beach from Alki Point to Cormorant Cove has plenty to explore within the three or so hours that the tide will typically allow.  

Starting at Alki Point, the terrain is rocky sea-bed riddled with aggregating anemones. Heading south, the ground transitions more to seaweed-covered sand also anemone-heavy. In fact, just plan on being patient as you try and avoid stepping on anemones for this entire adventure.

As you approach the residential pier from the north the two most captivating features of the beach appear- a concrete pipe and a rock wall. Plan on spending most of your time at the rock wall as it is absolutely teeming with a vibrant display of life. Beyond this wall there will be little new that you have not already seen. The pier does not offer any enticements nor does the beach beyond it, however its is worth looking at if time allows.

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Aggregating Anemones

Anemone colonies are so abundant on this beach they feel like an infestation. They appear on the sea floor and on any rocky surface they can attach to. You will spend most of your time avoiding stepping on them! Curiously, there are a number of colorless anemones alongside the colored ones. This typically happens in low light conditions as the commensal algae that gives the anemone color requires light for photosynthesis. This does not appear to explain their absence here.

Anthopleura elegantissima
Anthopleura elegantissima

Aggregating Anemone

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Anthopleura elegantissima
Anthopleura elegantissima

Aggregating Anemone

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Anthopleura elegantissima
Anthopleura elegantissima

Aggregating Anemone

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Anthopleura elegantissima
Anthopleura elegantissima

Aggregating Anemone

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Ochre Sea Stars

If there are sea star species other than ochre stars at Constellation Beach they must be quite scarce. Large ochre stars ranging from orange to purple are a main feature here. There presence is mostly confined to one area- the rocky wall on the beach. They inhabit just about every nook and cranny of this feature but are only sporadically found throughout the rest of the beach.

Pisaster ochraceus
Pisaster ochraceus

Ochre sea star

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Pisaster ochraceus
Pisaster ochraceus

Ochre sea star

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Pisaster ochraceus
Pisaster ochraceus

Ochre sea star

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Pisaster ochraceus
Pisaster ochraceus

Ochre sea star

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Rough Piddock 

You'll find these clams with their siphons protruding from the sand in and out of water. They may descend into the sand to "run away" from you, ejecting water as they go. They are distinct from geoduck by their distinct double openings with frilled edges and their more orangish hue. 

Zirfaea pilsbryi
Zirfaea pilsbryi

Rough Piddock Clam

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Zirfaea pilsbryi
Zirfaea pilsbryi

Rough Piddock Clam

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Zirfaea pilsbryi
Zirfaea pilsbryi

Rough Piddock Clam

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Painted Anemones

Painted anemones can be found throughout the beach. The largest, most impressive specimens can be found in great abundance hanging out in the rocky wall feature. 

Urticina grebelnyi
Urticina grebelnyi

Painted Anemone

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Urticina grebelnyi
Urticina grebelnyi

Painted Anemone

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Urticina grebelnyi
Urticina grebelnyi

Painted Anemone

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Urticina grebelnyi
Urticina grebelnyi

Painted Anemone

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Jellyfish

Jellyfish are more often victims of tide pools rather than inhabitants of them, but you will often see them both alive and dead whilst tide pooling. In this stretch of beach it seems quite common for lion's mane jellies to wash up during low tide. Be careful not to get to close as they can still deliver a nasty sting whilst dead!

Cyanea capillata
Cyanea capillata

Lion's Mane Jellyfish

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Cyanea capillata
Cyanea capillata

Lion's Mane Jellyfish

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Cyanea capillata
Cyanea capillata

Lion's Mane Jellyfish

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Cyanea capillata
Cyanea capillata

Lion's Mane Jellyfish

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Harbor Seal

Don't forget to look up occasionally while tidepooling! A harbor seal may be watching you as you explore. These are extremely common throughout Puget Sound. Once you get used to spotting their shiny round heads above the water, you will see them everywhere.

Phoca vitulina
Phoca vitulina

Harbor Seal

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Phoca vitulina
Phoca vitulina

Harbor Seal

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LOCATION

Begin anywhere along Beach Dr. between Constellation Park and Cormorant Cove and head straight down to the beach. There's ample parking on the street. If you are short on time head straight to the "wall" where you will easily see a great amount of biodiversity. You can just about see the "wall" on the map just north of the white pier. The area closest to Alki Point has a different terrain to the rest of the beach and has many tide pools in the rocks. You will also get an opportunity to view the lighthouse as you head toward the point!