Explore your natural surrounding this Saturday, September 26, at the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve for National Estuaries Day. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the natural reserve will take visitors on tours through the watery range via staff-narrated boat tours, half-hour guided kayak tours on Henderson Creek, and intro to paddleboarding with Olde Naples Surf Shop.
Back on dry land, park volunteers and rangers will give guided tours along the park’s trails stemming from the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center, focusing on the native plants growing in the reserve’s property. The touch tank will allow visitors to get up close and personal with the marine critters and creatures native to the estuary. And staff will be stationed at the science labs to talk about their research with sharks, water quality studies, seagrass monitoring, land management, and Everglades restoration among other studies. For beginner anglers, reserve staff will offer a beginners fishing clinic, showing kids how to safely cast and catch the fish species lurking in Rookery Bay’s shallows.
Marking Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center’s participation as a Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center (one of 25 in North America), the art gallery will host the Coastal America Partnership’s Ocean Art Contest exhibition. Opening at 9:35 a.m. in the learning center’s art gallery, national traveling biennial exhibition features the artwork from the 2013-2014 contest winners, including a piece from local six-year-old artist Arundhati Sharma, whose work was chosen as Southwest Florida’s artistic representation. Following the art exhibition opening at 9:40 a.m., join Friends of Rookery Bay Executive Director Gary Lytton for the lecture “Tales from the Coast,” a retelling of true stories spanning his 29 years of coastal stewardship, followed by a Q&A session in the gallery.
Ocean Art Contest art from Arundhati Sharma
New this year, Rookery Bay will offer special VIP passes ($25 per person), which will offer advance sign-up for the kayak tour, SUP, or lab tour; reserved seating for Gary Lytton’s lecture followed by an exclusive boat tour with Lytton; and a Rookery Bay water bottle to keep you hydrated.
National Estuaries Day was established in 1988 as part of Coast Weeks, to promote the importance of estuaries and the need to protect these cradles of the sea. Rookery Bay Reserve encompasses nearly 110,000 acres of open waters, mangrove forests, fresh and brackish water marshes, and upland habitat. Home to native Florida species, many of which are endangered, threatened, and protected, and is vital to the sustainability of many of Florida’s species, fisheries and landscape. Rookery Bay will join 28 other national estuarine research reserves across the country to recognize, and celebrate, these vital and pressured ecosystems.