Great Bay is part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS), a nation-wide network of state owned and managed coastal protected areas. The sites represent the diverse estuarine and estuarine-like systems of America’s coasts, setting them aside for long-term research and management based on biogeographic regions. The mission of the Reserves is to promote informed management through linked programs of stewardship, public education, and scientific understanding.
Designated in 1989, Great Bay Reserve’s primary purpose is to promote the wise use and management of the Great Bay Estuary. Encompassing over 25,000 acres of tidal waters and uplands, the Reserve is part of the Atlantic flyway and located in the Arcadian bioregion.
The Great Bay Discovery Center (formerly known as Sandy Point) serves as the conservation-education headquarters for the Great Bay Reserve. A universally accessible trail and boardwalk allow visitors to explore a variety of habitats including upland hardwood forests, freshwater wetlands, salt marsh and mudflats. Visitors can stand on the deck of a 19th century gundalow replica or wander through the native gardens surrounding the center. Birders find the Discovery Center an excellent location to watch for Great Bay’s wintering eagle population, migratory warblers, waterfowl, and locally nesting pairs of osprey.
Inside the Discovery Center, visitors are treated to interpretive exhibits about the Great Bay Estuary and the amazing creatures that call it home. Children can get their hands wet in an estuarine touch tank as they learn about lobsters, horseshoe crabs, mud snails and more! Interactive displays about salt marsh farming, salmon migration, plankton, tides and research on the Bay, allow children and adults alike to learn about the Estuary.