The Oceanside Beach State Recreation Area offers tide pools that are meant for exploration.

On a recent sun kissed day, scores of visitors strolled across the flat sand beach to meet low tide near the towering Three Arch Rocks.

If you’re lucky, Chrissy Smith, a volunteer teacher with the Explore Nature Tillamook Coast program, will be on hand to show and tell you more.

“I have always loved places like this tide pool area because at first, you see just a few things – but then, the more you peer into the pools you’re going to discover so much more marine life – the number and variety of sea life is incredible," she said.

Photos: Explore Nature Tillamook Coast program

Visitors walk, kneel and peer to see a wealth of sea stars, urchins and anemones at this Oregon State Park.

The Oceanside Tidepools draw more than three hundred thousand folks each year.

So, no surprise, visitors have many questions, according to State Park Ranger, Travis Korbe.

“They want to know what they’re looking at, the species, both plant and animal. A very common question today is: ‘How are the sea starts doing?’ Because we’ve had the sea star wasting disease. They also want to know what they can do to protect this marine eco-system.”

For the past three years, eight different nonprofit coastal organizations have partnered to provide answers about this coastal eco-system through the Tillamook County-based program called Explore Nature.

The program has quickly grown to become extremely popular, according to Smith. She said the first year, Explore Nature offered a dozen activities, but this year there are more than 60 in a season stretching from April through November.

“Most people have a lot of questions that center on the ‘why’ of all things coastal. Why is our coastline like this? Why do we have headlands? This place in particular is so amazing," Korbe said.

That much is certain on a day too nice to stay indoors – and then you discover that tide pooling is but one activity in the Explore Nature program.

Volunteers like Smith also lead trips to nearby oyster farms or a hike to the end of Cape Lookout or paddle a kayak across Netarts Bay or digging a limit of bay clams.

Explore Nature will show you how it’s all done and perhaps the best part: the activities are free and open to all.

Smith is a big believer that understanding a place leads to appreciation and then respect for Oregon’s coastal environment. It’s what Explore Nature is all about.

If you would like to visit more of Oregon – consider a walk on the wild side with my new book: “Grant’s Getaways: Oregon Adventures With the Kids.” You’ll find activities to engage any kid, from archery to clamming on the coast to hunting for thundereggs to zip-lining through trees in an aerial adventure park. 

In addition, be sure to check out “Grant’s Getaways Guide to Wildlife Watching in Oregon.” You will enjoy 48 uniquely Oregon adventures highlighting my fish and wildlife encounters. Scores of colorful photos by “Grant’s Getaways” photographer, Jeff Kastner, show off some of our finest moments in the field. You can also learn more about many of my favorite Oregon adventures in: "Grant's Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures"