School and Group Field Trip Activities

Santa Barbara County Parks Division offers weekday natural and cultural history field trip programs at Cachuma Lake for K - 6 students, higher grade levels upon request and other private groups. Every year over 2,000 children from communities and regional schools come for our Cachuma Lake Field Trip adventure. These programs are lead by County Park Naturalists and trained volunteers. Field trips typically include a lake cruise, nature walk, and visit to the Neal Taylor Nature Center. Topics emphasized can be tailored to your class curriculum. Trips run year-round. See below for booking details, and for our teaching resource, the Cachuma Lake DISCOVERY BOOK.  These programs are offered on weekdays only. For weekend nature activities, please see our Nature Activities Calendar of Events.

Cachuma Bird

Lake Cruise

30-Passenger pontoon boat. Life vests provided and worn at all times.

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), with programs generally starting at 9:30 am.

Limit: Minimum 15*, maximum 90 people (per day).

Cruise Fee: $5 for youth ages 5-12, $15 for adults.

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

*Booking Requirement: Minimum of 15 people needed to make an exclusive Nature Cruise booking outside of general public cruise times— for smaller groups see public Nature Cruise schedules.

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.

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, lizards, birds and animal nests. We examine plants along the trail and those 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 are divided.

How To Schedule a Field Trip

Call the Naturalists' Office at (805) 688-4515, or email  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 programs Tuesday through Friday.
  • Age Groups: Programs are tailored appropriately to age groups K - 6, middle school and higher grade levels upon request as well.
  • Field trip length: 9:30 am to 1:30 pm when participating in all 3 activities. Field trips can be tailored depending upon the visiting group's 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
  • Adult to child ratio: 1 adult to 10 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 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,, (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