Gliding through the waters of Upper Newport Bay provides an up-close and tactile way to experience the beauty and serenity of this natural estuary. Volunteer docents lead groups through the bay, discussing the ecological, geological and geographical history of this important estuary while you paddle along the shallow shores taking in the sights, sounds and smells of this preserved natural aquatic setting.
The kayak tours begin at the Newport Aquatic Center in Newport Beach, where participants will check in at the reception desk before heading to the bay-side dock area. There, docents will run through brief instructions and safety checks, making sure each participant has an appropriate life vest, paddle and detachable kayak seat-back. Paddlers will either ride in their own kayak or with a fellow paddler in a double kayak. The minimum age for participants is 8.
Once on the water, paddlers will follow a guide to several stopping places along the bay where the volunteer naturalist will discuss the native plants, birds, and other marine life that call this saltwater marsh estuary home—including some endangered species. While looking out for interesting flora and fauna, the guides may also stop to discuss the geological forces at work in the bay. Nearby sandstone cliffs are a visible example of plate tectonics at work. The sedimentary layers of the cliff have become very obviously diagonal as they are forced up by shifting tectonic plates.
For those interested in birding, the kayak tour of the bay is a great way to get close to an array of bird life. Birds seem to be much less threatened by a person in a kayak than by people on foot, and allow for much closer observation. Watch and listen to Pelicans (Pelecanus) glide just overhead in impressive V-shaped formations, occasionally diving into the water of the bay for fish. Several other small waterfowl species can be seen actively diving and fishing along the shores of the bay, sometimes just feet from the kayakers.
An elevated nesting platform near the Back Bay Science Center on the southern shore of the bay has been home to a pair of breeding Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) since 2006. These majestic raptors, or birds of prey, can often be seen perched on their platform, or hunting for fish in the water of the bay. Seattle football fans might be interested to know the Osprey is also known as a “Seahawk”.
In addition to discussing the variety of animal life in the bay, docents also inform participants about the adaptive plant life that thrives in the open water, mudflat, salt marsh, freshwater marsh, riparian and upland habitats that make up the Upper Newport Bay. Visitors learn how certain plants have adapted ways of excreting salt, making it possible for them to thrive in the brackish water of bay.
Kayak tours are held every Saturday and Sunday morning, from 10 am until noon, weather permitting. The Newport Bay Aquatic Center is at 1 Whitecliffs Drive in Newport Beach. To participate in the kayak tour, reservations and a fee of $25 are required. To learn more about the tour policies and dates for upcoming tours, click here. To learn more about Newport Bay Conservancy, visit their website at NewportBay.org.