On Friday afternoon. the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR) was host to about 1,000 visitors, according to spokesperson Lisa Bailey.

Staff counted 887 walk-up visitors, but other guests who made use of the elevator or who entered through Marion Millender Park were missed.

Bailey said 33 ANERR and Florida Department of Environmental Resources (DEP) staff were joined by 78 volunteers including local citizens and representatives from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC); US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS); the County Extension Office; Dr. Julian Bruce St. George Island State Park; Florida State University; Gulf Specimen Marine Lab; St. George Island Volunteer Sea Turtle Program; Apalachicola Riverkeepers; Franklin County Consolidated School culinary arts program; the NEST after-school program; Apalachicola Bay Charter School Beta Club; Supporters of St. Vincent’s and Friends of the Reserve.

New activities added this year included the “Leave No Trace Race” hatchling game, mock sea turtle nest evaluations, monarch butterfly-tagging demonstrations, pin the tag on the monarch game, making seed bombs and a marine debris and recycling activity area.

The event was expanded to include the new bird and butterfly garden to the east of the ANERR building.

Event Coordinator Anita Grove said she wished to thank everyone who volunteered to help celebrate the Apalachicola Watershed, especially Emily Jackson who works in ANNER’s coastal training program.

National Estuaries Day, the culmination of National Estuaries Week is celebrated on the first Saturday of September each year. Established in 1988, this annual event inspires people to learn about and protect the unique environments formed where rivers and other freshwater flow into the ocean, creating bays, lagoons, sounds, or sloughs.

Outdoor lovers can learn and have fun at each of the 28 National Estuarine Research Reserves throughout the country managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in partnership with coastal states and territories.

These special reserves were set aside for long-term research and education activities in estuaries, but they also offer abundant recreational opportunities, such as swimming, boating, fishing, wildlife viewing, and bird watching.

ANERR, designated by NOAA in 1979, is located in Franklin, Gulf and Calhoun counties, within one of the least populated coastal areas of Florida. The Apalachicola River basin is part of the larger Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River system (ACF) which drains an area covering approximately 19,600 miles, extending into the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Florida portion contains about 2,800 square miles; the population within Florida's basin is probably less than 100,000 .

The boundary of ANERR includes the lower 52 miles of the Apalachicola River and floodplain, as well as most of Apalachicola Bay. It includes lands managed by USFWS, FWC, Florida Park Service, Northwest Florida Water Management District (NWFWMD) and the Florida Coastal Office.

The Apalachicola National Research Reserve is also a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, an internationally designated protected area meant to demonstrate a balanced relationship between people and nature.