Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
The Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve a small estuary, about 3 sq. miles (8 sq. kilometers), receiving freshwater from the Magnolia and Fish Rivers, and drains a 198 square miles (510 km2) watershed into the portion of Mobile Bay. This sub-estuary of Mobile Bay averages just 4.8 ft (1.5 meters) deep and is fringed with marsh (Spartina, Juncus) and swamp (pine, oak, magnolia, maple, cypress, bayberry, tupelo and others). The reserve lands also include upland and bottomland hardwood forests, freshwater marsh (Typha, Cladium), submerged aquatic vegetation (Ruppia, Valisneria) and unique bog habitats (Sarracenia, Drosera). Weeks Bay is a critical nursery for shrimp, bay anchovy, blue crab and multitudes of other fish, crustaceans and shellfish that support robust commercial fisheries providing $450 million/year for Alabama.
The Weeks Bay Reserve includes over 6,000 acres (2,400 ha) of coastal wetlands and waterbottoms that provide rich and diverse habitats for a variety of fish, crustaceans and shellfish, as well as many unique and rare plants. The Weeks Bay estuary, "where rivers meet the sea," is an important site of scientific research on estuarine ecology. The Weeks Bay Interpretive Center offers the public opportunities to learn about coastal habitats through its exhibits, live animals displays and collections of animals and regional plants. Self-guiding nature trails wind through wetlands, marshes, bogs and forests.