Whether on the Homer Spit, at Bishop's Beach or across Kachemak Bay, the southern Kenai Peninsula has miles of beaches to explore. To protect those beaches so future visitors can enjoy them, please follow some simple rules, whether hiking, tidepooling, four-wheeling or having a cookout.
Beachcombing and collecting: The tides toss up treasures from all over the world. You might be lucky enough to find a rare Japanese glass float or that perfect sea shell. Not everything found on the beach can be taken home, though. Large driftwood set in berms helps protect beaches, so don't saw or haul away big pieces. State law prohibits collecting live seaweed or kelp. Permits are required to collect live animals for study or aquariums. Though it's tempting to take home eagle feathers, federal laws also prohibit collecting them.
Lots of marine debris washes up on our beaches, and sloppy people leave trash. Help out the beach by collecting trash you see. Better yet, volunteer for clean-up days like the spring clean-up or the fall CoastWalk.
If you see a stranded or dead marine mammal, like a sea otter, seal or whale, don't touch the animals. Note the location and call the Alaska Sea Life Center's 24-hour stranded animal hotline at 1-888-774-7325. Volunteers from the Kachemak Bay Marine Mammal Stranding Network are on call to watch over stranded animals.
Tidepooling: Extreme minus tides expose hundreds of yards of usually unseen beaches, including rare sea life. Environmental education organizations offer guided tidepooling trips if you want to learn about sea stars, chitins, and other creatures.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game puts out a brochure, "Tidepooling Etiquette," available at the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies and the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center. To protect marine life, practice these suggestions:
Explore tidepools from the edge and don't wade into them and disturb marine life.
Turn over rocks gently, and put back them back the way you found them. Don't crush animals underneath.
When digging clams, fill in holes.
Study sea life on floating docks. Many species can be seen at the Homer Harbor, and by looking at sea life there, you take pressure off natural habitat.
Follow Fish and Game laws and bag limits for collecting animals taken for food.
Respect beaches used for environmental education, such as the Peterson Bay Field Station.
All-terrain vehicles, motorcycles and even clunky old beach trucks are allowed on some Homer beaches but know the regulations. Homer Police offer a simple rule: If it's muddy, don't ride there. On the Homer Spit, that means no riding in Mud Bay, Mariner Park Lagoon or on the northeast side of the Spit. "Where Can I Ride?", a brochure showing legal areas to ride, is available at the Homer Chamber of Commerce and at city campgrounds. Signs are also posted where riding is restricted or prohibited. Don't drive through, on or above the storm berm or on vegetated areas.
Slow down, too, and watch for walkers and others sharing the beach. Also watch the tide. Every year, some motorist gets stuck on the beach, ruining an expensive rig.
Build cooking and campfires on bare ground, with a clear area around the fire. State law requires that all campfires be fully extinguished and cold to the touch before leaving them. Do not build fires near piles of driftwood or anything else that can catch on fire.