Tide Pools
Sand beach. Photo by Hugh Shipman.
Sand Beaches  
Most sandy beaches scattered along Puget Sound have very little wave action. They occur mainly at lower tidal levels and near the mouths of bays or rivers.
Sand beach. Photo by Hugh Shipman.

Between The Grains

On these quiet beaches, tiny microscopic organisms mingle in between grains of sand (isopods, tiny shrimp, and worms.)

Sand dollars, which feed on detritus, can become so dense that they form a strip along the shore visible from a plane. The burrowing sea cucumber can also be found here. Both species are widespread on sandy beaches along the Sound.

Sand Beach: Habitat Zones

Shorebirds on sand. Photo by Bill Yake
Photo by Bill Yake.
  • Higher Up The Beach
    Several species of shorebirds often rest together in mixed flocks on the upper beach, sand spits, or beach grass.
  • Splash Zone
    Along protected sand beaches, driftwood and grasslands often form along the splash zone. Beach hoppers or sand fleas can also be found here feeding on detritus (decaying plant and animal matter).
  • Mid Intertidal Zone
    Lugworms often appear in the mid-intertidal zone, leaving "sandy toothpaste" fecal mounds. Lugworms churn marine sediments much as earthworms do in a garden. Small crustaceans also live here and are important food sources for bottom feeding fishes. The only large clam of these beaches: the white sand clam.
  • Lower Intertidal Zone
    During high tide, the Dungeness crab, the red rock crab, and a variety of shrimp invade the intertidal area to forage for food. When eelgrass is present, Dungeness and red rock crabs can be found at low tide.
  • Shallow Water, Subtidal
    Bottom dwelling fish found in shallow waters here include: english sole, sand sole, and sculpin.

    Save The Sand Beaches

    Sand beaches are popular places to have fun. Visitors however, can harm sand beaches by collecting sand dollars, moon snails, and other creatures as souvenirs. In addition, driving motor vehicles or just walking can damage organisms living at or near the sediment surface. Both activities can kill sand beach species and reduce the food available for the birds and fish who feed here. Care should be taken by the visitor not to harm the very thing they enjoy.

    Related Links

    Beaches, US EPA. Find information on beach basics, beach health, and technical resources. 

    The Beach and Your Coastal Watershed, US EPA Fact Sheet (1998). Beaches and their function within a coastal watershed. Impacts on beaches and EPA's programs to protect beaches.   

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