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Washington, NC Estuarium Field Trip

"An estuary is a partially enclosed coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea.... The mixing of seawater and freshwater provides high levels of nutrients, both in the water column and in sediment, making estuaries among the most productive natural habitats in the world." - Wikipedia

Washington, NC is home to the very first estuarium in the world!

Carolina Nature Coalition led an exciting field trip to visit the estuarium which houses over 200 exhibits, including living aquariums, historic artifacts and boats, unique environmental artworks and audio-visual presentations.

The group had reservations arranged in advance to cruise the salty Pamlico River upstream to the Tar River's fresh water estuary captained by a guide who was able to answer many questions. Luckily, the weather was cooperative. The group enjoyed a free, relaxing, and informative 1 1/2 hour cruise.

The following photos and video invite you to enjoy the sights the group enjoyed during the river cruise:

The river begins to narrow, yet the current runs deep. During storms, the rush of water digs out the bottom making the river 15 feet deep in places.

The rushes are home to many life forms. During our cruise, we saw turtles and a blue heron.

We cruised past a remote fishing cabin, a perfect setting for people who like to get away from it all.

Many estuaries suffer degeneration from a variety of factors including soil erosion, deforestation, overgrazing, overfishing and the filling of wetlands. Eutrophication is pollution from sources like sewage effluent or leachate from fertilized fields to cause a body of water to become overrich in organic and mineral nutrients, so that algae and cyanobacteria grow rapidly and deplete the oxygen supply.

Dynamic ecosystems, estuaries have a connection to the open sea through which the sea water enters with the movement of the tides. Seawater entering the estuary is diluted by the fresh water flowing from rivers and streams. The pattern of dilution varies between different estuaries and depends on the volume of freshwater, the tidal range, and the extent of evaporation of the water in the estuary.

The North Carolina Estuarium, located on East Water Street in downtown Washington, NC, is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10:30 to 3:30. Adult admission is $5, $3 for children ages 5 - 17, and free for children under 5 years of age. There is no charge for the 1 1/2 hour cruise but be sure to call ahead to arrange your reservations. (252) 948-0000


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