A visit to Naples offers many ways to have fun in the Florida sun. There’s the outdoor dining, beautiful beaches and even the opportunity to experience a more natural version of Florida, one that is protected and conserved for generations to enjoy. This special, undisturbed place is called Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, located just 15 minutes south of downtown Naples.
Visitors can explore the reserve’s 110,000 acres, which is set aside as preserved public land and water. Encompassing 40% of Collier County’s coastline (a fact even most locals don’t know), the reserve begins at the Gordon River in Port Royal and stretches all the way down to the border of Everglades National Park.
Rookery Bay Research Reserve has one of the most unique and beautiful estuaries in North America. An estuary is a place where
fresh water meets salt water creating a super-productive habitat for wildlife and a prime nursery for fish, birds and all kinds of marine animals. There are 29 National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRs) in North America along the East Coast, West Coast,
Great Lakes, Puerto Rico and Alaska; protecting more than 1.2 million acres. Each NERR offers a different type of habitat and
experience, from the muddy marsh land of Mississippi to deep cold bays in Alaska. But, the one thing they all have in common
is they are a refuge for animals, fish, birds … and even people. These unspoiled places are protected through a partnership with
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and individual states. The Reserves all share the same mission of longterm protection and preservation of these coastal treasures through scientific research, monitoring, education and training.
Acres of mangrove forests, islands and warm shallow waters are just a few reasons why Rookery Bay’s estuary environment is so special and worth a visit. The mangroves create an extremely nutrient rich ecosystem – a perfect food source for all types of birds, fish and marine organisms as well as a haven for these animals to call home and stay safe from predators. On any given day, when exploring the estuary, a visitor may encounter manatees, dolphins, sea turtles as well as diverse fish such as the endangered sawfish, tiny squirt fish, sea horses and “good eating” fish like snook and mullet.
Rookery Bay Reserve is here for everyone to discover and enjoy… by boat, kayak, hiking adventure on the trails and boardwalks or a visit to the state-of-the-art Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center. Kayak tours and eco-boat tours are offered at Rookery Bay through an exclusive partnership with biologist-led Rising Tide Explorers and the Friends of Rookery Bay. On these tours, visitors can experience the estuary up-close – traverse mangrove tunnels, visit beautiful barrier island shell-strewn beaches and see wildlife including more than 150 species of bird life like egrets, pelicans, blue herons and dynamic roseate spoonbills.
National Estuaries September Celebration!
Throughout the month of September, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and reserves around the country will celebrate the importance of estuaries with special activities for all ages on-site at the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning. It will culminate with a special celebration on Saturday, September 25, 2021!
Rookery Bay National Estuaries Celebration Highlights (*only on September 25)
• Special Boat Tours on Estuaries Day* (book online at Rookerybay.org/#estuariesday)
• Discounted Eco Kayak and Boat Tours all month-long
• Trivia Time
• EDscursion: Live from the Field Film Festival*
• Rediscover Rookery Bay Art Exhibition
• Plankton Lab*
• Kids Crafts
Visit RookeryBay.org for more information about tours, programs, special events and the Environmental Learning Center.
Plan a Visit
Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center
300 Tower Road
Naples, FL 34114
Open: Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.