If you are looking for a place to take your kids in the Portland metro area where they can wade around looking for crawdads and caddis flies, tadpoles and salamanders to their heart's content (without being yelled at for breaking park rules!) here are some suggestions. Guidebooks to bring along for help identifying the critters you find are Pond Life (Golden Guide) which has the lowdown on all those teeny aquatic insects and crustaceans, and Amphibians of Oregon, Washington And British Columbia: A Field Identification Guide (Lone Pine Field Guides) which has clear photographs and identifying tips for frogs and salamanders in every life stage from egg through adult. Jars, nets, and a microscope (if you have one) are great to bring along. Remember that garter snake adults mainly eat amphibians, so where you find frogs, salamanders and tadpoles you will find garter snakes. No snakes in Oregon are venomous except rattlesnakes, which no longer make the Portland metro area their home. And remember that rough skinned newts are tough customers; they excrete the strongest natural neurotoxin in North America from their skin when they are terrified enough. So don't eat them! If you handle them, be sure you don't have any cuts on your skin, be gentle and all will be well.