When your hotel is situated on the edge of a nature preserve, it’s bound to get interesting. When there’s ten miles of trails winding through it? Even better. I spent a lot of time on the trails of Upper Newport Bay Preserve and Ecological Reserve a few years ago, both strolling with my camera and running without it. There’s nothing like fresh scenery to add a little spring to your step and pull some time off your mile.
Upper Newport Bay is dedicated wetlands. Without intervention and education, it would eventually fill with sediment and evolve into meadowland. Home to half a dozen rare or endangered bird species, the estuary hosts over 30,000 birds a day during winter migration. Birds are only part of the story though; fish, native plants and assorted critters and mammals share the space in an intricate food web sustained by the unique conditions of a wetlands habitat. Some thirty to forty percent of California’s halibut catch is said to originate from spawning beds in the Bay. A flood control project in the late 60’s has impacted the Bay to the point that regular dredging is necessary to maintain its natural state. Fortunately, many believe the estuary to be worth the effort.The serene liquid landscape teems with life; mollusks, fish and snails emerged along the waterline as well as assorted shorebirds that fluttered away at our approach. We searched in vain for a California trapdoor spider, but a sleek long-tailed weasel caught my eye as it slipped across a narrow channel.
The Muth Interpretive Center was an unexpected find, tucked away beneath a curve of the trail. The paths of an outdoor garden led us down to fascinating displays on the Bay’s ecosystem. We arrived with questions and the employees were more than happy to share information and point us to helpful exhibits. Muth Center guides also helped us identify a couple of plants that intrigued us, including the coyote gourd or coyote melon plant.
The trailing vines of this flowering plant were expansive, invading the territories of all surrounding vegetation and even creeping out onto the horse trail that runs alongside the biking and running path. Jumping the vines daily as I ran the bayside path seemed reason enough for an introduction…
Updated from July 29, 2009.
1000 acres of preserved wetland with 10 miles of hiking/biking/running trails. Kayaking, fishing, birdwatching...
Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center: Exhibits and information
Directions/Phone: 2301 University Drive; Newport Beach, CA 92660(949) 923 2290 Website
Newport Aquatic Center: Kayak and pontoon boat tours
Directions/Phone: 1 Whitecliffs Drive; Newport Beach, CA 92660(949) 646-7725 Website
View Upper Newport Bay Preserve and Ecological Reserve in a larger map