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Photo by Ian Butler

CHARLESTON — Estuaries represent unique and important natural systems that provide untold benefits to people and animals. Coos Bay is fortunate to have a place dedicated to estuary conservation, education, and research. For National Estuaries Week, Sept. 16-23, the South Slough Reserve will host special events dedicated to getting the public more involved with this amazing resource.

“Estuaries benefit our coastal communities in many ways, including providing food, boosting the economy, and reducing floods,” says Deborah Rudd. “But estuaries do even more than that. Our estuary is an “outdoor classroom,” providing opportunities to learn and have fun in a natural environment. That’s what we want to showcase during Estuaries Week.”

Events include Birds on the Estuary 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 16; between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 20th stop by the “Salty & Fresh” booth at the downtown Coos Bay Farmer’s Market; then from 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, Sept. 23, meet at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology for a Seaweed Art class. To culminate Estuaries Week, celebrate with South Slough and Surfrider on the Coos Bay Boardwalk for the annual Stand Up for the Bay Celebration. South Slough will debut their new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Exhibit, Surfrider will host a shoreline clean-up, a community paddle followed by music, food, beverages and a paddle jousting contest. Sign up and learn more at https://www.facebook.com/pg/SouthSloughEstuary/events

A national Estuaries Week photo contest, sponsored by NOAA, is also taking place. Amateur photographers may submit photos in four categories: Work, Play, Learn, and View. Visit the photo contest webpage for the full contest details, including eligibility and instructions for entering. The deadline for entries is Aug. 31.

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Estuaries are defined as ecosystems along the oceans where freshwater and saltwater mix to create wetlands, bays, lagoons, sounds, or sloughs. These ecosystems are not only home to unique plant and animal habitats, but they provide communities with food, recreation, jobs, and coastal protection. Many fresh water estuaries along the Great Lakes also possess similar characteristics. Of the 32 largest cities in the world, 22 are located on estuaries.

The South Slough Reserve is part of a national system of reserves that protects more than 1.3 million acres of coastal land and water. Each of the 29 sites receives support from NOAA and local partners. The research and environmental monitoring performed at each reserve plays an important role in protecting environmental health, both locally and nationally.