Many ‘wet and wonderful’ ways to enjoy National Estuaries Day

Get a “fish eye” view of Rookery Bay through on-the-water experiences during National Estuaries Day on Saturday, Sept. 24.

The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve celebrates this environmentally-focused event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to help people learn about and enjoy Collier County’s beautiful coastal ecosystem.

Activities include naturalist-led half-hour tours of the reserve on boats provided by Cruise Naples and the Conservancy’s Good Fortune. Guests will learn about coastal plants and animals including oysters, fish and wading birds as they float through the wake-free shallow waters off of Shell Island Road. Participants must be 48 inches or taller to get on the boats. Transportation is provided from the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center to and from the boats.

From the Environmental Learning Center’s backyard, half-hour guided kayak trips are offered on Henderson Creek. Kayak trips offer an intimate connection with the water, mangroves, upland scrub forests and other habitat. These mini-tours are an ideal way for guests to try kayaking and decide if they would like to register for Rookery Bay’s two-hour trips offered year-round. Participants must be 12 or older, and anyone under 18 must register and paddle with an adult. There is a weight limit of 250 pounds.

Also out back at the center, the Old Naples Surf Shop invites guests to hop on a paddleboard and try the newest sports craze. The boards are 12 feet long and stable, but just like getting into and out of kayaks, feet will likely get wet. There aren’t any size or weight restrictions for participants, but parents must sign waivers for youth under 18.

Land lovers will find plenty of activities to keep them busy. Volunteers will lead walks along the Snail Trail across the pedestrian bridge that spans from the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center into mangroves and pine flatwoods. Stay on the coquina shell-paved half-mile trail or go on your own to explore the one mile of unpaved trails. An observation platform juts out onto Henderson Creek for views of the water.

Reserve staff will be stationed in the science labs to talk about the work they do related to shark research, water quality studies, seagrass monitoring, land management, Everglades Restoration and other studies. Peek through microscopes to see plankton and learn about the importance of these tiny creatures to our oceans and the air we breathe.

Get a hands-on experience at the marine critter touch tank, filled with sea stars, a variety of crabs and even a sea cucumber. Gaze into the aquariums that exhibit unique native fish including cowfish, burrfish and the polka-dot batfish that is the Rookery Bay mascot. Kids will enjoy face painting and fish printing. And, everyone can take a break watching nature films in the 140-seat theater-style auditorium or grabbing lunch from Russell’s Clambakes and Cookouts.

All activities, including boat trips, are included for free with the discounted admission that Rookery Bay is offering on Sept. 24. Sign-up forms for the boat trips will be available at 10 a.m.

National Estuaries Day event partners include the Good Fortune, Cruise Naples, Costco and Old Naples Surf Shop.

A ‘stamp’ of approval

The U.S. Postal Service will be at National Estuaries Day to conduct a “First Day of Sale” of the new Saving Vanishing Species stamp. Featuring a bold graphic of an Amur tiger cub, the artwork depicts just one of the magnificent animals that this stamp is designed to help.

This semipostal first class stamp will sell for 55 cents, and proceeds above the 44-cent price will go to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to support the Multinational Species Conservation Funds, including the Marine Turtle Conservation Fund. Other species benefiting include the African Elephant Conservation Fund, Asian Elephant Conservation Fund, Great Ape Conservation Fund, and Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund.

They will also sell the Go Green stamps, which show simple actions people can take to improve the environment, such as fixing a leak, sharing a ride or planting a tree.

USPS is bringing a First Day of Sale postmarking device to commemorate Save Vanishing Species stamp purchases made this day.

If You Go

What: National Estuaries Day

When: Saturday, Sept. 24 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, 300 Tower Road, Naples (just south of U.S. 41 on Collier Blvd.)

Activities: Half-hour boat rides, half-hour kayak trips, paddleboard demonstrations, guided nature trail walks, science lab tours, marine critter touch tank, nature films, food vendor, kids crafts, music and more.

Cost: Discounted admission for National Estuaries Day is $3 for ages 13 and older, $2 for ages 6-12 and free for under age 6 as well as Friends of Rookery Bay members.

For more info: rookerybay.org, facebook.com/friendsofrookerybay, 417-6310.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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