Field Trip Tips
Know Before You Go
There are many hazards to you and your students on the Oregon Coast, and there are plenty of natural and manmade signs that warn of the dangers. To help ensure a successful field trip, plan ahead.
Review the following information a few weeks before your scheduled field trip to keep everyone safe and to provide the best opportunity for learning. It is a very good idea for a teacher or field trip leader visit the site prior to planning the field trip. Look for the different safety issues/considerations of that particular shoreline. Map out the nearest escape route so you can get yourself and the group to safety. Locate the best spot for looking at the tidepools. You may contact the nearest park for ranger recommendations and in some cases to arrange a ranger-guided tour of the rocky shore.
Check the weather and surf conditions before you leave the school the day of your field trip (see the tides and weather page). Modify you plans accordingly. Call the nearest state park for recommendations of alternatives. Monitor the wind, waves, and weather during the field trip, adjusting your plans accordingly.
Check the tide tables before planning your field trip (see the tides and weather page). Tide tables are predictions of the height and times of high and low tides each day. The exact height and time of the high and low tides will vary depending on your location along the coast, the weather, and seasonal conditions. Visit the "Trip Tips" page for other information to help you plan your trip.
Dress for Success
Expect to get wet. Wear appropriate clothing. If you get soaked, dry off soon. Hypothermia sets in quickly. Bring extra clothing and towels for the bus ride home.
Wear closed-toed shoes. (No flip flops!) An old pair of sneakers may help prevent slipping and protect the feet.
Bring a warm jacket or sweatshirt, because if is often cold at the coast, even if it is warm inland.
Caution students to leave jewelry, clothes or shoes that cannot get wet, electronic devices, etc. at home where they will be safe and dry.
Communication is Key!
Carry a cell phone or radio for quick communication in the event of an emergency. Make sure someone knows where your group is going, and how long they plan to be there. Checking in with the nearest State Park office when you arrive and when you leave is always a good idea.
Oregon's ocean shore is an exciting and dynamic place. However, it is very important to remember how powerful the ocean is. Be sure to review beach safety tips before you go to help you have a safe and fun visit.
Please check out the beach safety information page
Thousands of students and other visitors explore Oregon's rocky intertidal areas every year. Many animals hide under marine plants such as seaweed to avoid the hot sun and predators. Some animals, like anemones, may cover themselves with bits of shell and sand to conserve water. Please step on bare rock or sand whenever possible and leave plants and animals attached to rocks. Be sure to check out the new interpretive guide to some popular and common rocky intertidal species.
Please visit the "Tidepool Etiquette" page
Prepare Yourself and Your Students
Have adequate adult supervision, and be sure that the adults know what to do. There should be at least one adult for every 4-6 children (although this may vary depending on the students’ needs). The adult should stay with their group.
Set up a buddy system. Students go no where without their buddy. Have one student watch the waves while the other looks at the tide pool. Then, have students trade. This way, someone is always watching the water.
Before you leave the school, review the beach safety tips with your students. Also, make sure students and adults know the purpose of the trip and their various roles during the trip.
Once at the beach, set boundaries as to where students may and may not go. Remind students and adults of the time schedule (lunch plans, departure). Review behavioral expectations. Pass out any needed materials. Review the safety issues.
Keeping safe on the exposed ocean bottom
How to keep safe in the tidepools?
- Wear boots or sturdy footwear that can get wet. (Shoes should fit snuggly on your foot so you don’t slip and should cover all your foot so you don’t get scratched up.) Bare feet and flip-flops are dangerous in tidepools.
- Check the tide tables. Take care to keep track of the tide levels to make sure you can get back to shore.
Keep your hands free.
- You’ll naturally reach out if you start to slip.
- On very uneven rocks, use your feet and your hands to keep three points of contact with the surface.
- Cameras, phones, and such are safest in a zippered front pocket or in bag slung over the head and one shoulder.
- Don’t put anything in your back pocket you wouldn’t want to fall on.
Use your head.
- Think about where to put your foot with each step.
- Sand and bare rock are always your first choices; someplace you can’t slip from is a good second choice when you avoid stepping on tidepool inhabitants.
- Be alert to your location and your surroundings.
- Keep track of how you’ll get back to shore; listen and watch for sneaker waves and the rising tide.
Beach safety videos
View a few short public service announcements on sneaker waves, rip-tides, and drift-logs:
Being good visitors…
Tidepool organisms are well adapted to meet great challenges at the sea’s edge—but they can also be very sensitive to the kinds of impact people have. Communities that may appear everlasting may take many years to recover from a single damaging event.
This remarkable and valuable resource is well worth protecting—and can be safeguarded by keeping a few points in mind:
Watch your step.
Step on bare rock or sand whenever possible—for your safety as well as the safety of the rocky shore inhabitants. Many of Oregon's popular tidepools have plenty of viewing opportunities at the sand-rock interface (where standing on rock can be avoided almost entirely). Unless a walking stick is truly required for your safe travel, please leave it behind: the small tip applies a huge amount of killing force to life on the rocks.
Observe, rather than capture.
Slow down, look closely, and watch patiently to observe the sea life in its home. Quietly watching a pool or gently moving seaweed aside will reveal individuals and behavior that would go unnoticed in a rush.
Touch the animals very gently with only one wet finger to lower the chance of harm. Please do not poke or prod.
“If you pry, it will die.”
Clamping or attaching to the rock is how many tidepool inhabitants survive heavy wave action: prying them off the rocks will damage them as well as leave them vulnerable to the incoming surf.
“Keep it low and let it go.”
Scuttling crabs might tickle, and they may pinch and will try to walk off your hand. If you must pick them up, keep your hands low to the ground so they don’t have far to fall in an accident. Return any picked up inhabitant as soon as possible to its home.
Replace all material you move.
The rocks, shells, and seaweeds give protection to the animals below—including the ones you didn’t see: it is important to return moved items to exactly the way you found them.
Don’t take it home—alive or dead!
It is nearly impossible to find a shell with no other living thing in it or on it. “Empty” shells are critical habitat for many other organisms, from hermit crabs to limpets to seaweeds, and more. (In fact, even the minerals in the bits dissolve and enter the water, where they’re taken up later and used to build new shells.)
your discoveries and delights with others, while modeling and encouraging good tidepool etiquette. Share your favorite photos here and explore those taken by other visitors!
Respect specially designated areas.
A few Oregon Coast tidepools are closed to collecting to protect special sites. Tidepool creatures are protected by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) regulations. Check "marine zone" regulations to find open areas and limits for fish and invertebrates and general ocean shore recreation rules for marine plants and non-living items.
There's more beneath the surface-check out ODFW's Oregon Marine Reserves website!
Best idea: take only pictures and leave the wildlife and plants for others to enjoy.
Several places along the Oregon coast offer on-site interpretive programs that give you the opportunity to learn more about rocky shore species and their habitats. Several have a touch tank and other fun educational opportunities.
Some Oregon State Parks offer tidepool walks or have a seasonal on-site roving ranger, including but possibly not limited to those listed on this page. Check out the regularly updated Oregon State Parks events page on the main website for details.
For a virtual tour of a tidepool with an Oregon State Parks ranger, visit the multimedia "Watch and Listen" section of this site.
A roving interpretive ranger shares interesting details about mussel beds with a beach visitor.