North Carolina Estuarium

The North Carolina Estuarium is an educational center that spotlights the importance of the state's coastal rivers and sounds. Its focuses on Washington's Pamlico/Tar River estuary, which is the second-largest one in the nation. Science, art, nature and history come together for a great experience for the visitor.

Operated by the Partnership for the Sounds since 1998, the estuarium features aquariums, exhibits and regional artifacts. The 12,500-square-feet building houses more than 200 displays in the metal-roofed building, which evokes the days when the waterfront held shipping wharves and warehouses. The buttons, gadgets, colors and sounds make the estuarium a fun and educational spot for children.

North Carolina's sounds and coastal rivers --or estuaries-- are extremely important ecologically. The North Carolina Estuarium is the first aquarium in the state to focus exclusively on these systems. In the United States the only estuary system larger is the Chesapeake Bay.

In the lobby, visitors view a highly interactive sculpture wrought by local artist Whiting Toler which artistically conveys the course of a raindrop from the state's Piedmont area down to the coastline.

Visitors can see, hear and touch some of the features that make the region unique. One display has three tubes that drip water with different concentrations of salt to represent water from the ocean, brackish water from estuaries and fresh water. Another display shows how the wide, shallow estuary is more influenced by wind than tide.

In a classroom overlooking the river, children can conduct experiments or read gauges that show the temperature and salinity of the water just beyond the docks.

They will then be encouraged to view a introductory film on the Pamlico region, shown in the auditorium which seats approximately 55 persons.

The estuarium operates from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. A nominal admission is charged.


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