Going Green: Upper Newport Bay – Restoration, Recreation and Research

Share this:

greenBy Garry Brown, Executive Director / Orange County Coastkeeper

Just above Newport Harbor is the Upper Newport Bay, a sanctuary to many species of plants, birds and marine organisms.

The Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve is an estuary, a wetland with a mix of fresh and salt water that is tide-dependent. It is the largest ecosystem of its kind in the area.

This wetland not only provides home to wildlife including various endangered species, but it acts as a natural filter for urban runoff pollution and provides natural flood control. Additionally, it is a beautiful area great for relaxation and recreation.

Popular activities include wildlife-watching, paddle boarding, kayaking, rowing, bicycling and jogging.

Over time, human activities have had somewhat of a negative impact on this sensitive habitat. Now, it is important to protect the integrity of the ecosystem that still remains and to restore the habitat that has been degraded. Various efforts exist that provide the opportunity to do both.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has established programs that help educate the public about the area. Their programs include monthly Marine Life Inventories of the green 2estuary and weekly/monthly restoration days in the surrounding bluffs.

The monthly Marine Life Inventories are open to the public by reservation only. For more information or to make a reservation visit backbaysciencecenter.org.

If you are a science teacher interested in taking your students or if you are a member of the community interested in learning more about the ecosystem, join us for these monthly events. Be sure to send regards to Coastkeeper’s guest scientist of the month and tell them this article sent you.

If you are interested in the restoration efforts, you can contact the Newport Bay Conservancy. At their website (newportbay.org), you will find various opportunities depending on your availability.

If you are interested in a community-based restoration program, visit newportbay.org/stewardship/community-based-restoration and find the one that best fits your schedule and interest.

In another effort to maintain a healthy ecosystem, the Back Bay Science Center also hosts a large cleanup event on the yearly Coastal Cleanup Day. This is held on the third Saturday of September every year.

If you can’t wait that long to help remove marine debris, contact us at Coastkeeper and you can RSVP to one of our monthly cleanups.

I am certain that preserving the integrity of the Newport Bay will come naturally after only one visit to this beautiful area. Remember that we can always do our part to protect the sensitive ecosystem simply by watching our actions in the surrounding area, reducing urban runoff and our pollution.

To get more general information on the area, visit ocparks.com/parks/newport.

For more information on Coastkeeper, visit Coastkeeper.org.


Share this:


  1. “Provides natural flood control”?, now thats a stretch or spin if I ever herd one. If it’s so “natural” then why did the County dredge out two twenty foot deep toxic sediment filled “Drop Basins” in the very upper end? Please don’t be a Dave Kiff and ask what “natural” is? Really, nature made a creek that historically hardly ran, then the Irvine Ranch did some land excavating in Tustin which opened the flood gates to Newport instead of the Santa Ana River, transporting millions of tons of sediments into the Upper Bay.
    The Irvine Ranch/Company was denied a marina and condos in the 60’s (by environmental citizens) so TIC gave the land to the State to be a land reserve = hands off to the public, as a trust/gift?! As the OC grew inland so did the tiny SD creek watershed bringing more muck into the Bay from the foothills,its still growing daily. Most so called local experts say the fresh water flow is supposed to be there, this is a “estuarine bay”, well right, but most fresh water came from the Santa Ana River when it ran though the lower bay many years ago!
    Everybody knows what happened, but none will stand up to the “bread winners” here. There is a way or two for a good fix regarding the dry weather flow and first flush, but nobody wants that bill. Oh! maybe the Feds will pay for us?… The County, The Irvine Company, CalTrans, the many cities in the SanDiego Creek watershed are really the ones contributing into the “delivery” system, not much from nature or Newport Beach.
    This is a Flood Control System for the County via San Diego Creek and New Delhi Channel, both armored and maintained, plus delivering millions of gallons 24/7 of toxic brew.
    Coastal clean ups are “goody two-shoe” surface trash collections that might be beneficial for some wildlife, but mostly bad “eye candy” on the waters surface for us folks.
    I wish Garry Brown with his fifteen years at the helm of his OC group might have accomplished a way to really make the Upper Bay the place as advertised by many.
    Many who lobby for grants and NGO funding that make folks feel good along with cities, counties, governmental agencies and big developers.
    Again, Newport Upper Bay is a County flood control/stormwater system and still a growing watershed delivering toxic water clouding muck into Newport Bay, the end of the pipe is the harbor entrance.
    I try giving the uncomfortable version, of the Newport Upper Bay Environmental Reserve/Preserve, a description so few address because it doesn’t buy tables for fund raisers or get votes or job keeping insurance.
    If reality is unpopular and not welcome, then what and who are we really listening to?