Explore OC: Newport’s Back Bay is a paradise for birds, plants and people

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.

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.

Click here to read full article at the Orange County Register

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