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Shifting Sands Create Natural ‘Pools’ on South Walton Beaches

Have you ever noticed pools of water on the beach upland from the Gulf of Mexico? They’re called tide pools, and we asked some beach experts to tell us a little bit more about this occasional phenomenon.

“The tidal pooling is natural and found on many beaches,” says Dr. Stephen Leatherman, who is literally known as Dr. Beach and whose yearly beach rankings make him something of a beach legend. “The geologic name is ‘ridge and runnel topography.’”

A tide pool can be formed by wind or tidal action and is a natural result of waves washing sand onto the beach, where it then forms a barrier, or “berm,” that keeps water from returning to the Gulf of Mexico.

Tide pools aren’t only formed by the tide, though. Big waves, coastal dune lake outflows or rain can also deliver water to these low areas on the beach. When freshwater causes tide pools they often take on the darker colors of tannins (an organic substance from leaves and plants that gives the water a tea color), like some lakes or rivers. When tide or Gulf waves wash the water in, tide pools can become a living habitat holding various marine life as well as green algae.

Tide pools sometimes sit for long periods of time before being refreshed with new waves or rainwater, and at those times it’s best not to swim in these stagnant pools. Regulation by the Department of Environmental Protection prevents altering tide pools, thereby ensuring that nature is allowed to take its course.

So how long will a tide pool last? Well, that depends. Local beach experts tell us that a tide pool can appear and disappear within days, or last weeks or months, depending on how the waves and tide shift the sand, and factors such as rainfall or groundwater elevation.

Tide pools are difficult to predict, but they can occur anywhere along the sandy shoreline and are common sights along the beach. You can learn more about tide pools here

We hope that during your stay you enjoy plenty of fun in the sun, and can appreciate the natural quality of the beaches here in South Walton.

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