Newport

A wake of turkey vultures sit in a dead tree, the prickly pear cactus are blooming on the bluffs above and herons pick through the marsh grass feeding on small fish and critters.

Not too far away, cyclists, hikers and runners circle them all on the 10.5 miles of trail that is part of one of the most beautiful and diverse watersheds in Southern California: the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve.

The views it offers visitors can be stunning, making it a pleasant getaway among Orange County’s urban sprawl.

A hiker walks along Delhi Channel at Upper Newport Bay in Newport Beach, CA on Tuesday, September 28, 2021. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)
A great blue heron rests on a branch as a willet flies by at Upper Newport Bay in Newport Beach, CA on Thursday, October 7, 2021. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)
A cyclist rides on Back Bay Drive, part of the 10.5 miles of trails and residential streets that circle the back bay in Newport Beach, CA. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)
A wake of turkey vultures sit in a a dead tree along Back Bay Drive in Newport Beach, CA on Thursday, October 7, 2021. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)
A hiker walks along Delhi Channel, one of the tributaries to Upper Newport Bay in Newport Beach, CA on Tuesday, September 28, 2021. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

In the 1960s, there were plans to develop the upper bay with homes and boat docks, dredge the marsh and re-configure the shoreline. After a lawsuit and public campaign drew attention to the ecological importance of the area, it was designated a reserve in 1975.

Additional acreage has been added over the years and today about 1.5 square miles of habitat have been preserved.

Estuaries such as The Back Bay (that’s what the locals call it), where fresh water and salt water come together with little wave action, serve several purposes for Mother Nature, and that also means visitors can enjoy everything from bird watching to paddle sports up close to its marshes.

The area is a migratory path for the Pacific Flyway, a stopping point for more than 190 species of birds.

Willets fly over the surface of the water in Upper Newport Bay in Newport Beach, CA on Thursday, October 7, 2021. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)
A kayaker paddles in the Upper Newport Bay in Newport Beach, CA on Thursday, October 7, 2021. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)
A turkey vultures soars at Upper Newport Bay in Newport Beach, CA on Thursday, October 7, 2021. The birds have a 6-foot wingspan but typically weigh only 2-4 pounds. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)
A cyclist rides on a trail near Jamboree Road overlooking Upper Newport Bay in Newport Beach, CA on Tuesday, September 28, 2021. The trail shares a section of the longer Mountains-to-Sea Trail. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Two paddlers pass each other in Upper Newport Bay in Newport Beach, CA on Tuesday, September 28, 2021. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Cyclists round a turn on Back Bay Drive in Newport Beach, CA on Thursday, October 7, 2021. The road is part of a combination of trails, roads and residential streets that circle the back bay. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Snowy egret flies over grasses at Upper Newport Bay in Newport Beach, CA on Thursday, October 7, 2021. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

It’s also a sort of a nursery, said OC Parks Ranger Ellen Loftin, providing a safe haven for ocean fish to lay their eggs and the young to mature.

Eventually those fish go back into the ocean and start the cycle again.

Along with supporting the varied wild and marine life visitors will spot, the estuary’s abundant plant life filters the fresh water of trash and sediment that comes from urban runoff and the San Diego Creek as it mixes with ocean water.

All this combines to make a functional and beautiful oasis.

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And, if the path around Upper Newport Bay isn’t exercise enough for you, it also links to the 22-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail that runs from Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach inland through Peter’s Canyon and Irvine Regional Park in Orange and on to Weir Canyon in Anaheim Hills.

An easy way to access The Back Bay’s trail heads is at the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center, 2301 University Drive, which offers free parking 7 a.m. to sunset. The center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Events for the community are regularly held.

OC Parks will be hosting its first Boo at the Bay Family Halloween Party at the interpretive center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 30. Spooky stories, science experiments, crafts and live animals are part of the event.

Source : https://www.ocregister.com/2021/10/22/explore-oc-newports-back-bay-is-a-paradise-for-birds-plants-and-people/

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