YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

JAUNTS: in and around the Valley

At the Ocean's Edge

Winter's low tides are a good time to explore local beaches for marine life like anemones and starfish.


Sure, you can go to the beach in the summer, cool off in the surf, then kick back on the sun-baked sand. But a day at the beach in the dead of winter has its charm, too.

You can go it alone, or join a number of scheduled beach outings and see some nifty coastal spots in and around Ventura County. And you'll glean some marine science along the way.

For exploring tide pools, winter is ideal. Low tide is the best time to scour rocky shores for the marine creatures that dwell there, and the lowest of the low tides during daylight hours occurs in the winter. When this happens, the water recedes far enough to reveal an eerie, vast expanse of beach.

Marine biologist Susan Williams leads tide-pool outings during the winter at Emma Wood Group Camp, at the west edge of Ventura at the end of Main Street. Her programs are offered through the city's Recreation Department.

She times them with an eye to the local tide-pool table, which tells fishermen and others on a daily basis when to expect high and low tides. (These little pamphlets are available at sporting goods stores. Look for the minus tides, marked in red, for the best times to explore tide pools.

Williams' next tide-pool outing is Feb. 7, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Others are scheduled Feb. 21 and March 8. The cost of each is $5, which covers the parking fee at Emma Wood.

This is a popular family adventure, and it fills up fast, so reservations are required. It's definitely geared for kids: Williams starts it off with a dress-up game, letting children pretend to be the marine creatures they are likely to see on the outing.

"It's anemone city out there," Williams said. "There's a bajillion of them." These mushy balls with flowing green tentacles are joined by crabs, barnacles, sea stars and sometimes an octopus. Williams explains how these creatures lead a daily fight for survival, living in the intertidal zone, those rocky spots that are exposed during low tide. They deal with the comings and goings of the tides and the constant thrashing of waves.

If you join one of these outings, be prepared to walk about half a mile through the campground, under the railroad tracks and out onto the cobblestone-littered beach, just up the coast from the mouth of the Ventura River. Expect to get wet scrambling over rocks, so wear old sneakers or water shoes, and bring a change of clothes.


For a drier beach experience, consider "Great Beaches of Ventura County," a series of four beach outings offered through Ventura College's community services program.

Naturalist James G. Lemieux of Ojai will lead these Saturday trips, which run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The first is Saturday, followed by Feb. 7, 21 and March 7. The series fee is $100.

The beaches Lemieux plans to visit include Surfer's Knoll at Ventura Harbor, Port Hueneme Beach, Thornhill Broome Beach at Point Mugu State Park and Bates Beach near the Santa Barbara County line. He'll meet participants at each location.

Lemieux, an environmental consultant, will talk about beach ecology--how climate, development and beach-goers affect sand-dune formations, plants and animals.

"I hope it becomes a springboard for dialogue," said Lemieux, who designed the program for people involved in environmental planning as well as anyone who simply wants to know more about local beaches.

Those who sign up for his program (reservations are required) should expect to walk about a mile on each outing and bring a lunch. They'll keep an eye out for birds, which are plentiful this time of year. And during the outing at Surfer's Knoll, the group will stroll down to the mouth of the Santa Clara River, which is a bird haven. That outing also goes past the protected dunes that are nesting spots for the least tern.


Farther down the coast, beach-goers can explore a stretch of rocky shoreline near Leo Carrillo State Park with California State Parks guide Jim Holt.

Meeting at County Line Beach across from Yerba Buena Road on the Pacific Coast Highway, the group will walk down an embankment into a small "pocket" beach known as Staircase Beach. There, Holt will talk about how the ecology of a rocky shoreline differs from a sandy beach.

The outing, called "A Shore Thing," is scheduled for Jan. 31, beginning at 8 a.m.; and will be held again Feb. 7 at 10:30 a.m. These free programs last about 2 1/2 hours and require about two miles of walking. Since parking is scarce, participants may also meet at Staircase Beach, 40000 Pacific Coast Highway, a half-hour later.



For more information about these programs, or to register, call:

* Ventura Recreation Department, 658-4733.

* Ventura College's community services, 654-6459.

* California State Parks, (310) 457-8142.

Ventura County Beaches

There are 42 miles of ocastline in Ventura County. Winter tours of these beaches are being offered:

1. Thornhill Broome Beach

2. Point Mugu Beach

3. Port Hueneme Beach park

4. Surfer's Knoll

5. Emma Wood State Beach

Los Angeles Times Articles