Cobbles always tell a story of ancient times and how the beaches of the Oregon coast took their particular shapes after millennia of being arranged by the movement of the tides. Nevertheless, the rocks are not the only ones eager to tell stories to the visitors, because what lies beneath the rocks of these picturesque shores can be classified as a fully functional ecosystem.
These little creatures in the photos are purple shore crabs and live by the thousands under the rocks of Cobble Beach in Yaquina Head. They are not an attraction we like to expose to all visitors due to the fragile nature of the crabs’ bodies, which can break easily. However, we do implement their presence into some of our education programs, and we sometimes let the children move the rocks around to find these enigmatic animals. To be able to expose the bare ground underneath the cobbles we first need to remove a few layers of rocks and uncover the secrets they hide. Before we decide if it is a good idea to present this activity to the children, the environmental education rangers need to assess if we are going to be able to contain the excitement of the crowd. We typically suggest the “crab hunt” as a closing activity to our program; we carefully expose what the rules are going to be: 1) no tossing rocks around, 2) scooping crabs instead of grabbing them, 3) gently putting them back where they belong, 4) do not remove crabs from the beach.
For most of the school groups this is a very enjoyable activity and the children really appreciated that we trusted them enough to let them touch and look at the crabs from up close.