More than 1,000 visitors got a free chance to explore estuaries surrounding Naples on Saturday during the National Estuaries Day celebration at the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Boat rides and kayak tours took participants out among the mangroves as other visitors explored guided nature walks and the facility’s Environmental Learning Center.
The research facility overseeing 110,000 acres of coastline landscape opens its doors to the public for free during the annual event, which began in 1988. It coincides with similar events at 27 national estuarine research reserves nationwide on the last Saturday in September.
Brooke Carney, education coordinator at Rookery Bay, said the event is an opportunity to prove the importance of the unique habitat where freshwater coming off the land meets the saltwater from the sea.
“It exposes people to what we have right here in our backyard,” said Carney.
“Once people experience something they can then start to understand it and hopefully appreciate it.”
Carney said she expects to see more than the 1,000 visitors they planned for the event as reservations for the boats and kayaks filled quickly.
“Not everybody has access to boats or kayaks, so offering those for free, we get quite a few people out on the estuary. Much of this place is only accessible by boat, so it allows folks to see something that they might otherwise miss.”