Nestled in the center of busy streets, multi-million dollar homes and shopping malls is a small body of water that is teaming with life: the Newport Back Bay. The reserve encompasses the inland delta that connects the Upper Newport Bay and Newport Harbor.
The Upper Newport Bay (known by locals as ” The Back Bay”) is a large coastal wetland in Southern California and a major stopover for birds. Dozens of species, including endangered ones, can be observed here. The Preserve is a place that is a scenic way to view the Newport Bay and Newport Dunes away from the hustle and bustle of the Newport beach side resorts.
Sculpted by the Santa Ana River and carved during the Pleistocene Epoch, mammoth, bison, and giant sloth fossils have been discovered in sedimentary deposits of an older marine terrace. Until 1862, the Newport Bay flowed directly into the Pacific Ocean. The earliest human inhabitants lived in the bay some 9,000 years ago. Two thousand years ago, the Bay was home to the Gabrielino Indians, who lived off the fish and plants.
In 1975 the land was purchased by the state for its Fish and Game Department’s Ecological Reserve System. In 1985 the upper west bluffs and lands surrounding the bay became part of a county regional park.
This estuary was once on the brink of extinction as developers sought to gain access to it. But with the help of several organizations and dedicated individuals, the area was turned into protected land and eventually became what is now an oasis for wildlife and a perfect retreat for nature lovers.
There are several trail options and routes to consider when visiting the Back Bay. The hiking trails located at the Preserve are well maintained by the people at OC Parks and are perfect to hike on. Sea breezes make this one of the few treeless trails that you can hike in summer in Southern California, but with no trees, comes more sun. There is limited shade on this hike, so be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen.
The only place I found significant shade was under this bridge. I didn’t really like the uneasy feeling I had when I sat under it alone. After doing a bit of research I found it has been a hot spot for body dumps over the years.
It’s hard to imagine a nature preserve located in such close proximity to Irvine’s central business development and John Wayne Airport. However, the Back Bay flourishes with activity and is a frequent destination for bikers, runners, stand-up paddle boarders, and HIKERS!
The Newport Back Bay is a gem of central Orange County.