School and Group Field Trip Activities

Santa Barbara County, Parks Division offers a natural and cultural history field trip program at the Cachuma Lake Recreation Area! The field trip is available to elementary grades 2-6, middle school, high school, and college. Public and private school students and other organized groups are all welcome. We can tailor our curriculum to align with your educational needs and requirements. Every year, over 2,000 participants from communities and regional schools come for our Cachuma Lake field trip adventure. The activities are led by Santa Barbara County Park Naturalists and other trained interpretive volunteers. Field trips typically include a guided Lake Cruise, Nature Walk, and visit to the Neal Taylor Nature Center. Trips run year-round and are offered Wednesday through Friday. See below for booking details, and for our free, supplemental teaching resource, the Cachuma Lake DISCOVERY BOOK. For weekend nature activities, please see our Nature Activities Calendar of Events.

How To Schedule a Field Trip: Call the Naturalists' Office at (805) 688-4515, or email 

Cachuma Bird

Lake Cruise

A picturesque excursion focusing on wildlife observation, watersheds, and the ecology of oak woodland, chaparral, and lake habitats. General emphasis is on wildlife watching including resident and migratory birds, mammals, plant life, geology, and Chumash history, as well as current drought and other environmental impacts.

Passenger pontoon boat. Life vests provided.

Length: Between 45 minutes to 1 and a half hours (depending on the time frame of group).

Limit: Minimum 15*, maximum 60 people (including youth and adults) per day. 

Cruise Fee: $10 for youth ages 5-12, $15 for adults. Elementary school groups can ask about the special student rate! 

Park Entry: $40/bus; $10/automobile.

*Booking Requirement: Minimum of 15 people or a payment of $225.00 needed to make an exclusive Nature Cruise booking outside of general public cruise times.

Nature Walk

This exploration takes us from a bird's to an insect's eye view of the oak savanna, oak woodland, chaparral and lakeside habitats, where we witness the intimacies of the web of life and emphasize adaptive abilities of organisms in our Mediterranean climate. Easily observed are quail, woodpeckers, scrub jay, lizards, and animal nests and tracks. We examine plants along the trail used historically by Chumash people. Length: level 1/2 mile loop trail; easy pace at ½ to 1 hour.

Nature Walk Fee: Free.

Park Entry: $40/bus; $10/auto.

Neal Taylor Nature Center

The Nature Center is a dream-come-true for curious young naturalists, scientists, and archaeologists. It offers touch tables, intriguing exhibits, games, and hands-on activities. Students use all of their senses to learn about Chumash history and settler history, geology, birds, animals, plants, and more.

Length: ½ to 1 hour.

Nature Center Fee: Donation Required. 

Park Entry: $40/bus; $10/auto.

NOTE: The Nature Center is currently open to the public Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

acorn woodpecker

Advance booking is best, however, short notice can sometimes work out.

  • Schedule a single activity or all three, depending on your time frame and needs.
  • We offer field trip programs on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
  • Age Groups: Programs are tailored appropriately to grades 2 - 6, middle school, and higher grade including high school, college, and post grad. Please let us know if there is a topic or emphasis you would like us to address. 
  • Field trip length: Typically 4 and a half hours from start to finish with a 9:15 a.m. arrival and 1:45 p.m. departure, when participating in all 3 activities. The time frame also includes a group welcome, orientation, lunch break, visits to the restroom, and walking to and from to each activity location. Field trip timing can be tailored depending upon the visiting group's size and time frame.
  • Group size: We can accommodate up to 60 people on the field trip per date. Groups with over 60 will have to plan to visit over separate days. 
  • Adult to child ratio: 1 adult to 15 children
  • Entrance/Park Use Fee: $40/bus; $10/auto

A window into the watershed

The Cachuma Lake DISCOVERY BOOK was produced by Santa Barbara County Parks to expose youth in grades K - 6, and beyond, to the ecology and living organisms around Cachuma Lake and in the Santa Ynez River watershed. Seven ecosystems are featured along with four to six subjects within each ecosystem.  Each ecosystem is beautifully illustrated, and text is offered for beginning and more advanced readers. For details, go to the How to Use This Book in the Introduction section.

This learning resource is FREE and may be copied only within its original format, for educational use.

Seven ecosystems (plus introduction) are described and illustrated and may be downloaded separately:

  • Chaparral
  • Freshwater marsh
  • Lake
  • Oak woodland
  • Oak savanna
  • River watershed
  • Human habitat

Click on the following links to download PDFs of the Cachuma Lake DISCOVERY BOOK sections

Please send comments to Rosey Bishop,, (805) 688-4515. Thank you!

DISCOVERY BOOK V1  Introduction & Table of Contents


DISCOVERY BOOK V1S2  Freshwater Marsh




DISCOVERY BOOK V1S6  River & Watershed

DISCOVERY BOOK V1S7  Human Habitat