This week the kids and I were out in Newport, chillin' in the Back Bay. Almost sounds glamorous doesn't it? No this is not the Newport Bay most people know. Its not the marina filled with the posh yachts of the wealthy. This is Upper Newport Bay. The place where freshwater and saltwater meet. An estuary where endangered birds make their nests and nature works hard at filtering out all the junk that comes from the watershed upstream so we aren't swimming in filthy oceans. This is a very important place. Sadly, this is also a very rare place in California. 90% of California's wetlands are gone. Most of them have been destroyed in the past 50 years. Knowing this made our visit to Upper Newport Bay all the more special.
At first glance an estuary doesn't look like much. Its a bunch a of grass and mud waiting to fill and empty with the tides. But upon closer inspection we found it was a beautiful habitat teeming with life. As soon we started walking down the trail to the Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center (which is so cleverly hidden into the landscape that I didn't even know it was there until we were right on top of it) we were greeting with gray squirrels and cottontail bunnies scurrying back and forth amongst the bushes. The air was filled with birds chirping happy tunes and the refreshing scent of that salty sea air. Ahhhh....
As much as I wanted to just start exploring the bay I knew we would be best served by hitting up the Interpretive Center first. I was incredibly impressed. What a great center! There were exhibits about wetlands, uplands, and estuaries that were designed to captivate every age. The kids got excited about the fish swimming in the aquariums and and the birds "flying" overhead. We weren't lucky enough to see a Great Blue Heron out in the wild that day but the kids still were able to get up close and personal with a stuffed version inside.
And then there was the classroom. Wow. I could have stayed in their all day and the kids never would have been bored. There are live animals in terrariums, fish, stuffed animals, animal puzzles, kid friendly microscopes, craft areas, books, books, and more books; the list goes on and on. And it was free! It made me so happy to see the kids so excited to learn about everything. (Okay so maybe Ben was mostly interested in kicking around the inflatable solar system planets but Mari was enthralled by everything). I am certainly keeping this place in my back pocket when I am looking for things to do on a rainy day. Best of all, they have classes for kids all summer long for only $5.00. These include stories, crafts, and outdoor nature walks. For more info click here.
From the Interpretive Center we meandered on down the trail to the estuary. It didn't take long before we spotted a mother and her adolescent ducklings our for a cruise.
We joined the main jogging/biking trail and enjoyed the views while spotting a variety of different birds and more lizards than I could count. We crossed a bridge with wooden sides but that didn't stop Mari from sneaking a peak at what was below.
We enjoyed our own little version of Wild Kingdom while watching lizards brawl and colorful birds perch. (do you see the lizard in the bottom right picture?)
Most of all, we just enjoyed the view.