Estuary Trail

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.

estuarytrailEnjoying 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.

What lives here?

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Ceryle alcyon

This animal is not part of an Aquarium exhibit, but is rather a wild species that lives along the Estuary Trail at the edge of the Yaquina Bay. These small, beautiful birds are commonly spotted around the Yaquina Bay during the winter months. About the size of a pigeon, the Belted Kingfisher can be easily identified by the brush-like crest on the top of its head.
Pelicans4

Brown Pelican

Pelecanus occidentalis

This animal is not part of an Aquarium exhibit, but is rather a wild species that lives along the Estuary Trail at the edge of the Yaquina Bay. With the possible exception of the sea gull, there are few birds outside of the pelican that are more closely associated with the coast, harbors and bays.
Common Raven

Common Raven

Corvus corax

This animal is not part of an Aquarium exhibit, but is rather a wild species that lives along the Estuary Trail at the edge of the Yaquina Bay. This large omnivorous bird is commonplace all over North American and, like the coyote and rat, has lived close to human settlements throughout history.
Nothern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Colaptes auratus

This animal is not part of an Aquarium exhibit, but is rather a native species that lives on or regularly visits the extensive gardens or wooded areas of the property. It is estimated that this beautiful woodpecker has over one hundred common names, although it is most often known as a “Red-shafted Flicker” to differentiate it from the Eastern or “Yellow-shafted Flicker” that lives in the eastern part of North America.
Opossum

Opossum

Didelphis virginiana

This animal is not part of an Aquarium exhibit, but is rather a wild species that may be seen along the Oregon Coast. A species native to eastern North America, Opossums (sometimes just called possums) arrived in the Pacific Northwest in the early twentieth century.
osprey

Osprey

Pandion haliaetus

This animal is not part of an Aquarium exhibit, but is rather a wild species that lives along the Estuary Trail at the edge of the Yaquina Bay. Also known as a “fish hawk,” the Osprey is a beautiful and fascinating raptor.
PeregrineFalcon2

Peregrine Falcon

Falco peregrinus

This animal is not part of an Aquarium exhibit, but is rather a native species that lives on or regularly visits the extensive gardens or wooded areas of the property. The Peregrine Falcon is one of the smaller raptor species on the Oregon coast. This striking bird is approximately the same size as an American Crow with a dark gray back, a tawny colored belly separated by white lines, and a yellow beak and talons.
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Porcupine

Ezethizon dorsatum

This animal is not part of an Aquarium exhibit, but is rather a wild species that lives along the Estuary Trail or in the Coastal Mountain area. The porcupine is a large rodent indigenous to the forest and woodlands of Oregon. Aside from the American Beaver, it is the largest rodent on the North American continent.
Red Tailed Hawk 2

Red-Tailed Hawk

Buteo jamaicensis

This animal is not part of an Aquarium exhibit, but is rather a wild species that lives along the Estuary Trail or in the Coastal Mountain area. The Red-Tailed Hawk is a common bird throughout the Americas. Highly adaptable, they can roost in a variety of places including crowded urban centers despite being shy around humans.
Rufous Sided Towhee

Rufous-Sided Towhee

Pipilo erythrophthalmus

This animal is not part of an Aquarium exhibit, but is rather a native species that lives on or regularly visits the extensive gardens or wooded areas of the property. Towhees are an extremely widespread bird species and can be found all over the continental United States and Canada.
Surf Scoter

Surf Scoter

Melanitta perspicillata

This animal is not part of an Aquarium exhibit, but is rather a wild species that lives along the Estuary Trail at the edge of the Yaquina Bay. These beautiful sea ducks breed in Alaska and Canada, but can often be found in Oregon during the winter months where the weather is more temperate.
VaryingHare

Varying Hare

Lepus americanus

The Varying Hare is one of three species (Black-tailed Jackrabbit and Brush Rabbit are the others) common to the Oregon Coast and Coast Range Mountains. It has a small head and ears, but comparatively large feet.