What is an estuary?
An estuary is an area where the fresh water of streams and rivers mixes with the salty water of the ocean. The importance of these wetlands cannot be overstated. Estuaries are, in a very real sense, the cradle of life for many coastal organisms, from shellfish to shorebirds. The Yaquina Bay Estuary, located in the heart of Newport, is one of the largest and most important estuaries in Oregon, ranking second statewide as a breeding ground and critical habitat for waterfowl and migratory shorebirds. Despite this distinction, however, nearly 70% of Newport’s historic estuarine marshes are now gone. But efforts to save what remain (and even restore the wetlands in some areas) are being coordinated by the City of Newport; businesses; conservation organizations; local, state and federal authorities; and private citizens.
Enjoying the estuary from the Aquarium:
Due to its location on the edge of the Yaquina Bay, the Oregon Coast Aquarium offers one of the best views of the estuary. Our quarter-mile estuary trail, which runs along the northern edge of the aquarium grounds, offers three different lookouts with interpretive information at each site. The path also takes you through a lush canopy of natural vegetation, giving the guest a small taste of what the region was like before Newport ever existed. The Aquarium has also been actively engaged in estuary enhancement through the creation of wildlife corridors, the restoration of native vegetation and even erecting artificial roosting areas for our resident ospreys.
Visitors to the Aquarium can pause to enjoy the estuary at three different overlooks set along the trail. Each overlook has interpretive signs to help guests understand the vegetation, animals and natural ebb-and-flow of this unique habitat.
Following the Yaquina Bay Estuary Trail:
An even closer look can be had by wandering the half-mile Yaquina Bay Estuary Trail which runs between the Aquarium and the nearby Hatfield Marine Science Center. This meandering path will take you along the edge of the marshlands and offers various overlooks, interpretive signs and even picnic tables. An especially fascinating time to visit is during low-tide, when the estuary mud flats are exposed and hundreds of birds descend to feast on crabs and clams.
Download a guide to the Estuary Nature Trail: Click here to download a two-page PDF document which will help you identify some of the animals and plants on the trail.
- 09 Jul 2015