If your question isn’t answered here or elsewhere on our web site, please use the contact form to submit your questions and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
I think I lost my keys/cell phone/jacket at the reserve…
Leave a message describing your lost items at (650) 728-3584 and leave a phone number for our staff to call if the item is found or turned in to the ranger station.
When is the reserve open?
The reserve opens at 8:00 am every morning.
The closing time varies according to the season. See https://parks.smcgov.org/locations/fitzgerald-marine-reserve
The best time to visit the park in order to tidepool is when the low tide for the day occurs during open hours and is +1.0′ or lower.
Can we visit on Thanksgiving? Christmas? New Years? Presidents’ Day? etc.
The reserve stays open on all holidays.
How long does a low tide last? How long can we explore?
In general, you can explore for at least an hour before and an hour after the low tide.
That interval might be longer or shorter depending on how low the tide is — on a 0’0” or negative tide you might be able to explore for three or more hours on either side of the low tide. Other factors, such as an offshore storm creating high waves, might cut your exploration time shorter.
For safety, remember never to turn your back on the ocean when you’re out on the rocks — a big wave can come along any time!
What does it cost to visit the reserve?
There is no cost for individual admission or parking.
For groups of 10 or more, you must make a reservation for a volunteer naturalist-led guided tour of the tidepools. Reservations are made by contacting San Mateo County Dept. of Parks at 650-363-4021. The County charges $35 for guided tours, and reservations must be made before the first day of the month preceding the month in which you wish to visit. (So for example, if you want to visit in July, you must make your reservation no later than the end of May, so it is in the reservation system by June 1.) You can find a list of available tour days on the web site.
How do I make a reservation for a group visit?
Tours are required only for groups of ten or more, but must be arranged before the first day of the month preceding the month in which you wish to visit. (So for example, if you want to visit in July, you must make your reservation no later than the end of May, so it is in our reservation system by June 1.) If you have fewer than 10 in your party, no reservation is required.
See http://fitzgeraldreserve.org/reservations for complete information on how to choose a tour time/date. Contact the San Mateo County Dept. of Parks at 650-363-4021 between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm Monday through Thursday when you are ready to make your reservation. Note that reservations are not guaranteed until payment of the $35 reservation fee (via check, cash, Visa, or MasterCard) is received.
When is the best time to see harbor seals?
Harbor seals swim in the reserve’s waters year round and at all hours. If you visit during a low tide, you will probably see several lying on the rocks at the water’s edge, resting and soaking up the sun. Between March and June you may see very small pups lying near their mothers.
Bring binoculars and view the harbor seals from a distance. Obey all Marine Mammal caution signs and, if orange cones have been put out by reserve staff, stay on the beach side of the line they scribe.
DO NOT APPROACH harbor seals; they are wild animals, federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and are easily scared away by people coming too close or being too loud.
USE SPECIAL CAUTION during the March-to-June pupping season, because if a mother seal is scared away from her baby, she is likely to abandon the pup, which will die. If you see a pup that looks abandoned, STAY AWAY and call the reserve staff. They will monitor the pup and contact the Marine Mammal Center for a rescue if necessary.
How can I get high-resolution photos for my magazine?
Submit a request for photos to Ranger Rob Cala using the Contact form at his web site, http://www.robcalamedia.com
How can my web site’s photographer or video crew arrange a time to shoot at the reserve?
Because the Reserve is both a County Park and a state Marine Protected Area, you should contact the reserve staff to obtain permits before you can shoot there. Leave a message for a return call at (650) 728-3584.
How do I apply for an internship at the reserve?
FFMR does not offer paid or unpaid internships.
Can we explore without a tour guide?
Visitors who are not part of a large group (10 or more people) can explore the reserve without a tour guide. Here are some resources to help you prepare for your self-guided exploration:
You can view a 13-minute introduction to the reserve and other videos about the reserve by following the links at http://www.fitzgeraldreserve.org/newffmrsite/resources-explore-fmr-online/
There are also several animal guides that you can print or view online before coming to the reserve. You can find those at http://www.fitzgeraldreserve.org/newffmrsite/animal-guides/
Feel free to ask questions of any of the rangers or volunteers (who will be wearing green jackets) you encounter while exploring the tide pools.
Be sure to look over our very short list of tips at http://www.fitzgeraldreserve.org/newffmrsite/good-tidepooler-rules-of-conduct/
How can I make the most of my family’s/group’s visit?
Make sure everyone dresses in layers and has shoes that have good gripping soles and can get wet. A few kids will probably slip and get wet, so make sure there are dry clothes, socks and shoes for them to change into for the ride home.
Why can’t I bring my preschool/K/Grade 1/Grade 2 class?
Our naturalist programs are tailored to third grade and up for several reasons.
- Observing the animals requires that kids hold still and be silent for several minutes at a time, to keep from scaring the wildlife away.
- No one is allowed to touch the plants or animals now that the reserve is a Marine Protected Area.
- The slippery rocky reef and the stairs to and from the beach can be difficult to navigate for smaller children.
- Few young children have the patience to listen to and take direction from our volunteer naturalists for the 2-hour period of the tour.
We recommend that younger children visit with their families on weekends or holidays, when they can explore in a flexible time frame and have their parents’ undivided attention.
As an alternative to bringing younger kids to the reserve, we suggest the Seymour Marine Center in Santa Cruz — it’s a small aquarium that can be toured in about an hour. It has great exhibits, and then you can go for a walk along the edge of the ocean and usually see (with binoculars) sea otters, sea lions, seals, and very often dolphins and whales — http://seymourcenter.ucsc.edu/visit/hours-admission/
Is the reserve accessible for the disabled? Senior Citizens?
Although our naturalist programs are tailored to school groups, there is no upper limit on the age of tour groups. Tour members must be able to walk long distances on unstable surfaces, cross a stream, climb steps without handrails, and navigate over slippery rocks. They will get more out of the tour if they are able to get down on their knees to view some of the smaller organisms.
If your group members meet those requirements, you can find more information on our web site at http://fitzgeraldreserve.org/reservations about how to book a group tour during a low tide.
The beach and reef are not accessible to walkers and wheelchairs. However, a paved trail through part of the reserve is accessible. Although we don’t offer guided tours of that part of the reserve, which is on the bluff above the reef, no reservation is required to explore the path.
Why aren’t any low tides listed for the dates I want to visit?
The reserve is best visited at a zero or negative tide during daylight hours. Sometimes the best low tides occur during the night, and daytime tides are all too high for tidepooling. This is a typical pattern in the summer — our very best daytime low low tides tend to happen in the winter.
There are a number of indoor venues in the bay area that give you a glimpse of the intertidal environment and see some of what you would at the reserve, such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Seymour Center in Santa Cruz, the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco, and the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.
An alternative to explore the coast outside and see some nature, although not necessarily tidepools, is Devil’s Slide Trail. Off Hwy 1 about 20 minutes south of San Francisco, the newest addition to our local county parks offers spectacular views and interesting geology. Wildlife is mostly birds, including a peregrine falcon that sometimes swoops right past you, and sometimes whales. http://parks.smcgov.org/devils-slide-trail
Which path leads to the Cypress forest?
From the parking lot (located on Lake Street between California Street and Nevada Street), walk back along Lake Street towards California Street.
Just past the corner where California Street dead-ends into Lake Street, you will see a bridge. Follow the path over the foot bridge. Take the first path that branches off to the right after you cross the creek. Follow that trail as it goes up along the split-rail fence and it will take you along the top of the bluff. The cypress forest is all along the top of the bluff. You can take the trail all the way through to Cypress Avenue. Then you can go back the way you came to return to the parking lot, or complete the trail loop by turning left (inland) on Cypress for about a block, and you will come to the paved path again. Follow the paved path and it will take you back over the foot bridge to the parking lot.
The walk through the cypress forest takes 10-15 minutes, so you can do the whole loop in as little as 30 minutes.
Can we picnic/barbecue on the beach?
Picnics, barbecues, kite flying, frisbee, ball-playing, and other recreational activities are not allowed on the reserve’s beaches because the activity might disturb the resident harbor seals and other creatures that call the reserve home. There are picnic facilities near the ranger station and restrooms.