Baywatch

One of Southern California’s last surviving estuaries is a perfect place for peaceful paddling. Known as the Back…

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One of Southern California’s last surviving estuaries is a perfect place for peaceful paddling. Known as the Back Bay, Upper Newport Bay in Orange County is a tranquil refuge that comes alive in spring when tall tidal grasses become comfy nesting grounds for feathered favorites like snowy egrets, blue heron and the endangered light-footed clapper rail. For up-close explorations, rent a kayak from the Newport Aquatic Center and head northeast from the launch site. Glide over glassy water amid marshes abloom with buckwheat and cattails, where nearly 200 bird species make their home. After exploring the wetland outskirts, turn around where signs warn against entering sensitive roosting areas and paddle back toward the aquatic center. Those interested in bigger bay views can follow the bluffs to their right into Newport Harbor, where occasional sea lions and other wildlife bask in a different kind of good life—among towering yachts and private docks. Fringe benefits!

MOONLIGHT BONUS: Experience the Back Bay’s sights and sounds after dark: the aquatic center has guided moonlight kayaking excursions starting May 14.

Newport Aquatic Center (1 Whitecliffs Drive, Newport Beach) has a good map to their facility. A one-person kayak rental is $14/hr.; a two-person kayak is $20/hr. General info (including after-dark kayaking): 949-646-7725. Guided tours through Newport Bay Naturalists and Friends are $20. Call 949-923-2269 for reservations.

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