About the Reserve

The Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve was created by the Washington Legislature and U.S. Congress in 1980. We manage the reserve to protect more than 11,000 acres of critical intertidal and upland habitat in Skagit County.

As a living field laboratory with support facilities and professional staff, Padilla Bay Reserve carries out several programs and activities to meet the needs of the state Shoreline Management Act and federal Coastal Zone Management Act.

Funding for the reserve comes from an annual grant from the NOAA Office for Coastal Management, as well as many other public and private sources.

Reserve creation and purpose

Padilla Bay is "reserved" for research and education about the Salish Sea.

Our mission is to promote improved management and stewardship of estuarine ecosystems in the Puget Sound biogeographic region through research, monitoring, education, training, stewardship, and interpretation.

The National Reserve System

In 1972, the federal Coastal Zone Management Act created a federal / state partnership to manage and improve the nation’s coasts. The act also established the National Estuarine Research Reserve System to protect selected coastal areas for long-term research, monitoring, and education. The country's 30 national estuarine research reserves create a network of protected estuarine habitat along the nation's coasts.

Protecting Padilla Bay

Washington state and U.S. Congress came together to protect Padilla Bay more than 30 years ago. Padilla Bay Reserve is especially valuable because it protects the largest contiguous eelgrass bed in the lower 48 states.

Padilla Bay's 8,000-acre eelgrass bed is used as a nursery by juvenile salmon, crab, and herring. Above water, it provides critical habitat for waterfowl and marine birds. It also helps to clean toxins and pollution from water that travels from the land out into Puget Sound.

Healthy seagrass beds absorb and store large quantities of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere which helps protect us from the effects of climate change. By protecting the Padilla Bay eelgrass bed, we're preserving a Coastal Blue Carbon resource that works to combat global warming.

As a result of its many benefits, eelgrass is highly important to the state Shoreline Master Program and restoration efforts by the Puget Sound Partnership.

Padilla Bay Reserve is active in the science and management of invasive species that threaten our valuable native resources. Visit our stewardship page to learn about how we take care of the bay.