Nearly 50 percent of Oregon is covered by forests, and they are invaluable to the well-being of the state. From helping maintain the cool, clean water in lakes and rivers, to being a peaceful refuge for recreation to providing thousands of jobs statewide. It’s no wonder Oregonians have such a passion for their forests and trees! And there’s no better way to ensure Oregon’s forests thrive for years to come than to pass that passion on to the next generation.
Children develop skills and learn what they like by interacting with the world around them. This is especially true when it comes to developing a love for nature. As children spend time in the woods, they can grow their knowledge and build long-lasting connections with nature. Those connections can carry through to adulthood and develop into a love and sense of stewardship toward Oregon’s forests.
Parents and other adults can encourage these connections by engaging children in forestry adventures from an early age. Take them to an Oregon forest so they can see the magic for themselves.
Read on for ideas for immersing children in nature and encouraging their love for Oregon’s forests.
One great way to immerse your children in nature is to go camping as a family. Not only will it give them a great appreciation for nature, but it will also provide family memories that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.
Oregon’s state forests offer many campground options and most do not need reservations. They are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. You can also bring your pets as long as they remain on a leash.
If camping is not something your family enjoys, opt for a day trip to an Oregon forest instead. Many of Oregon’s forests have recreation areas for families to utilize, including picnic sites. Pack a picnic basket with your children’s favorite foods, and take them to the forest to enjoy their meal surrounded by magnificent trees and more. At the Shellburg Falls Recreation Area in Santiam State Park, there is a picnic area not far from a waterfall, which your children are sure to love!
If you want to have an on-the-ground and not on-a-table picnic, there are plenty of areas for you to do that too. For instance, Clatsop State Forest has Soapstone Lake Trail. This two-mile trail is an old road that led to the former site of the Lindgren Cabin. Nowadays, it leads visitors to Soapstone Lake. It has many great areas where you can spread out a blanket for your family and enjoy a picnic, all with a fantastic view of the lake.
We all know children have a lot of energy. What better way to burn that energy than going for a nice, long walk as a family? Most forests have hiking trails that people of all ages can use. While hiking together as a family, you are sure to see the best of what the forest has to offer from tall trees to waterfalls to creeks and more. Maybe you’ll even see some wildlife!
While you are hiking with your children, talk with them about everything you are seeing. Deepen their knowledge of the forest—it’ll help grow their love of it. Also, if your children know how to ride a bike, many trails are a perfect opportunity to take a family bike ride.
Lots of state and national parks offer programming and events year-round for people to enjoy. There are even some specifically tailored to children. If you’re visiting the coast, Tillamook State Forest has forest education programs designed with children in mind. These programs are filled with interactive exhibits that showcase the past, present and future of the forest. It’s staffed by knowledgeable and kid-friendly forest guides.
Tillamook also offers a good selection of forest education programs that are all curriculum-driven, making it a popular destination for school field trips and youth group visits. If your child is not already attending these programs and events through school or youth groups, check the program and event calendar to see what you can take them to yourself.
For a calendar of Oregon state park programs, you can check out this events calendar.
Some forests offer a lot more than you realize—like horseback riding! Your children will be able to interact with horses safely and go for a guide-led ride along non-motorized trails. Guided horseback riding is a great activity for families, especially when surrounded by nature’s beauty.
Fishing is a great activity to enjoy with your children. Fishing together will teach them new skills and grow their love for nature and the forest, all while making family memories. Several Oregon forests have fishing access for you to take advantage of, like Lost Lake in Clatsop State Forest. This is a 14-acre natural forest lake that is periodically filled with trout thanks to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. You’re likely to catch something while fishing here, which will bring excitement to your child’s face.
As you can see, there are a lot of things you can do with your children that will help them build their love for Oregon forests. The above activities are ones that they will enjoy, and these are just a start. They’re many fantastic ways to get your children outside, moving around and having some fun family time.
While you are visiting Oregon’s forests with your children, we ask that you help take care of them. Talk with your children about why it’s important to care for the forest and everything in it. If you’re not sure what to speak about, Oregon Forests Forever has you covered with a few ways humans can speak for the trees. Sign up to receive alerts from Oregon Forests Forever to learn more about Oregon’s forests and helping them thrive.
Protecting human lives, property, and timber-producing forest
Oregon’s forests produce the highest quality water in the state
Supporting communities and the environment
Working forests are key in the fight against climate change
Offering a career path and future for everyone
Forest practice laws safeguard water, fish and wildlife
Different forest types create and maintain wildlife habitats
Oregon has the same amount of forestland now as 100 years ago