School and Group Field Trip Activities

Santa Barbara County Parks offers a natural and cultural history field trip program at Cachuma Lake! The field trip is available to any age/grade level (elementary, middle, high school and college), public, private schools and other groups. 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 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 teaching resource, the Cachuma Lake DISCOVERY BOOK. For weekend nature activities, please see our Nature Activities Calendar of Events.

Cachuma Bird

Lake Cruise

30-Passenger pontoon boat. Life vests provided.

Visits can focus on wildlife observation, watersheds, lake and settler history, the ecology of the lake habitat, Chumash life, botany, geology, zoology, resident and migratory birds as well as current drought and other environmental impacts.

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

Limit: Minimum 15*, maximum 90 people (including youth and adults) per day.

Cruise Fee: $5 for youth ages 5-12 (special youth rate for schools and groups), $15 for adults.

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 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: Free Admission.

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

NOTE: Bookings for just the Nature Center are limited to 35 people or fewer. The Nature Center is open Wednesday through Sunday.


acorn woodpecker


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.

No minimum group size requirement. Large groups can be divided.


How To Schedule a Field Trip

Call the Naturalists' Office at (805) 688-4515, or email rbishop@co.santa-barbara.ca.us. 

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

  • Schedule a single activity or all three, depending on your time and needs
  • We offer field trip programs on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
  • Age Groups: Programs are tailored appropriately to age groups K - 6, middle school and higher grade levels as well including college and post grad. Please let us know if there is a topic or emphasis you would like us to address. 
  • Field trip length: 4 hours, typically a 9:30 a.m. arrival, 10:00 a.m. start and 1:30 p.m. departure when participating in all 3 activities (this also includes time for a lunch break and visits to the bathroom). Field trip timing can be tailored depending upon the visiting group's size and time frame.
  • Group size: We can accommodate up to 30 people on the cruise boat at one time. For larger groups, we can split the group into halves or thirds and rotate them between the cruise, the Nature Center, and the Nature Walk. Our maximum size for one day is 90 (including all students, teachers and additional chaperones). Groups with over 90 will have to plan to visit over two separate days.
  • Adult to child ratio: 1 adult to 15 children
  • Entrance/Park Use Fee: $40/bus; $10/auto

Cachuma Lake DISCOVERY BOOK
A window into the watershed

The Cachuma Lake DISCOVERY BOOK was produced by Santa Barbara County Parks to open up 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, rbishop@co.santa-barbara.ca.us, (805) 688-4515. Thank you!

DISCOVERY BOOK V1  Introduction & Table of Contents

DISCOVERY BOOK V1S1 Chaparral  

DISCOVERY BOOK V1S2  Freshwater Marsh

DISCOVERY BOOK V1S3  Lake

DISCOVERY BOOK V1S4  Oak Savanna

DISCOVERY BOOK V1S5  Oak Woodland

DISCOVERY BOOK V1S6  River & Watershed

DISCOVERY BOOK V1S7  Human Habitat