Southwest Kenai Locations:

Peterson Field Station and China Poot Bay

Notable Species

  • Black bear
  • Bald eagle
  • Chitons
  • Christmas anemone
  • Decorator crab
  • Hairy Triton
  • Hermit crabs
  • Limpets
  • Moon snail
  • Octopus
  • Sculpins
  • Sea stars
  • Sea urchins

Nestled above a cliff on the south side of Kachemak Bay, the Peterson Field Station of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies offers access to both an old growth rainforest and a lagoon jammed with weird and colorful intertidal invertebrates. Guided tours explore rock piles and tide pools for sea stars, urchins, crabs, anemones, clams, chitons, limpets, snails, and tiny fish. Examine and gently touch a 24-armed sunflower star, a tidepool predator that grows as large as a pizza platter and can move 18 inches per minute as it “pounces” on mussels and other stars. Decorator crabs covered with seaweed mingle with hairy tritons and moon snails. Grazing shellfish such as limpets and chitons cling to rocks. Trails also wend through the rainforest, offering glimpses of songbirds and bald eagles. Sundew, a carnivorous plant, lurks in the spongy bogs.


Temperate rainforest—with a twist—covers the mountainsides above. Extensive die-offs of spruce due to a bark beetle infestation in recent decades have opened up the forest floor to light and spurred explosive growth. The strong tides of China Poot Bay shape intertidal life into distinct and colorful zones.

Cultural Connection

An ancient midden and house pit perch on the ridge above China Poot Bay, offering evidence of age-old use by Native Alaskans.

Viewing Tip

The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies operates an educational program visited by hundreds of adults and school children each season. Arrange to take a guided hike with a naturalist from Peterson Field Station. If your schedule allows, watch for “minus” tides; these expose even more extraordinary sea life.

Helpful Hints

Wear rubber boots. Don rain gear to traverse the drippy forest. Wearing a bug net will enable you to slow down and listen for bird song.

Getting There

Both Peterson Field Station and China Poot Bay lie on the south side of Kachemak Bay about four miles from the Homer Small Boat Harbor. The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies offers tours and transportation to the field station and tide pools. Water taxis will make drop-offs in China Poot Bay, which includes trailheads in the Kachemak Bay State Park.

Contact; 907-235-6667