Activity Overview

Grades: 3,4,5th
Length of Time: 30 minutes
Adult Support Needed?: No

Here in Santa Cruz, steelhead trout migrate from San Lorenzo River in the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. This journey is a challenge and many factors influence their ability to migrate. Rain and the corresponding water levels in the San Lorenzo River are one of the deciding factors in determining the timing of their migration and if migration is possible at all. In this activity, you will:

  1. Learn about steelhead trout migration and water level needs for each life cycle stage
  2. Read and analyze a USGS hydrograph to learn about seasonal changes in water levels in the San Lorenzo River
  3. Combine your knowledge to create a drawing identifying what season we might see each of the steelhead trout life cycle stages

Virtual Activity Guide

Join CWC staff as they guide youth through the activity. Youth are taken step by step through the activity. You may choose to use the Virtual Activity Guide instead of the Activity Guide PDF as all the same information is provided in this Virtual Activity Guide.

Supports Next Generation Science Standards:

  • 3-ESS2-1. Represent data in tables and graphical displays to describe typical weather conditions expected during a particular season.
  • 3-LS1-1. Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.
  • 5-ESS3-1. Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
  • 5-ESS2-1. Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact

Materials Needed:

  • Virtual Activity Guide OR Activity Guide PDF (see below)
  • Blank paper
  • Pencil
  • Colored pencils (optional)


1. Complete the activity as you follow along with the Virtual Activity Guide (see above) or view the PDF Activity Guide online and grab blank paper to follow along.

2. Check out the illustration showing the migration path of steelhead trout and draw your own version including all the same information.

3. Look at two pictures, one with low water levels and another with higher water levels, decide which one is easier for steelhead trout to migrate in.

4. Learn about and analyze hydrograph of seasonal water levels for the San Lorenzo River from the USGS.

5. Learn about the water needs for steelhead trout in each of their life cycle stages.

6. Combine all that you have learned to identify what season you are likely to see each of the life cycle stages based on upon what you learned from 1) the hydrograph and 2) each life cycle’s water needs. Add this information to your earlier drawing.

7. (Optional): Share your drawings with us! Send an email to or tag @CoastalWatershedCouncil on Instagram or Facebook.

Additional Resources:

Thank you to the City of Santa CruzCity of CapitolaSanta Cruz County and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for supporting the Coastal Watershed Council’s Watershed Rangers environmental education program.

To all of the Watershed Rangers students, teachers and program partners, although we will not be able to see you in classrooms, field trips and after school programs right now, we hope to provide you and your loved ones with online resources and activities during this time. We know that parents, teacher and lifelong learners are seeking ways to stay engaged and active, and we’re going to be working to bring activities to you through the Coastal Watershed Council blog. Please share these resources and activities with friends, neighbors and parents groups and stay tuned for more.

Additional resources:

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