Science & Environment

New partnership protects 430 acres of forest and wetlands east of Newport

By Rachael McDonald (KLCC)
March 19, 2024 12 a.m.
The Yakona Nature Preserve is on the Yaquina Bay estuary east of Newport, Ore.

The Yakona Nature Preserve is on the Yaquina Bay estuary east of Newport, Ore.

Rena Olson / Yakona Nature Preserve

A partnership between Yakona Nature Preserve and McKenzie River Trust permanently protects 430 acres on the Yaquina Bay estuary near Newport, Oregon.


Yakona is a nature preserve and learning center where students from Lincoln County and other school districts regularly visit for field trips to learn about salmon and other wildlife.

JoAnn Barton and her husband, Bill, founded the Yakona Nature Preserve and Learning Center in 2018.

She said they bring students from Lincoln County and other school districts to the property to learn about wetlands, climate change, botany and the history of the area.

“I think getting children out into nature, out from behind screens, and out into nature and having them soak all that in in a real hands on way is providing significance to the community, who can learn from a early age why it’s important to preserve and protect these sort of ecosystems,” Barton said.


She said they’re working with local high school students in an environmental studies field course. Barton said the spruce-dominated forest is particularly important as much of the local spruce was logged during World War I to build airplanes.

“Through the act of preservation, we are providing this teaching model and hope to enrich our community. And grow future leaders who also recognize the importance of these authentic coastal habitats that provide so much resilience as climate change increases and intensifies,” said Barton.

The Yakona Nature Preserve is on a peninsula in Yaquina Bay, east of Newport. There are three miles of hiking trails. Barton said they were initially open to the public. But they are now open for school field trips and guided group hikes by reservation.

Margaret Treadwell is central coast conservation program manager with McKenzie River Trust. She said the trust worked with Yakona to establish a conservation easement which ensures the property remains focused on conservation, education and building cultural connections.

“This land is particularly significant because it is along the Yaquina River and estuary which has rearing and migration habitat for coho salmon, chum salmon, fall Chinook, winter steelhead, and many other fish that are important to the coast and fishing industry as well,” said Treadwell. “And there are tidal mudflats which are a great source of food for migrating birds.”

Treadwell said the land is home to eagles, black bears, bobcat, cougar and elk as well.

“It’s amazing to have that amount of land where animals of that size can make a life,” she said. “And it’s extra special to have it so close to town. And also creating this wild area that you can see from the river even if you’re not out on the land there.”

McKenzie River Trust has worked on the Oregon Coast since 2004. It’s only recently extended its area to include Lincoln County. Community members interested in visiting Yakona can find more information at their website.

The preserve is named for the Yaqu’n Indians, the first people on the Yaquina estuary lands.