Star-Spangled Sanctuaries: 4 Ways to Celebrate This July 4th

For millions of Americans, the Fourth of July is synonymous with spending time outside and on the water, and it’s easy to see why. Across our 15 national marine sanctuaries, America is home to many of the world’s most spectacular seascapes, unique wildlife, and archaeological treasures. Our resplendent coastlines and rich maritime heritage offer world-class outdoor recreational activities for everyone to enjoy and make lasting memories for years to come.

This holiday weekend, families across the country have an opportunity to get out and explore our marine sanctuaries. Here are four ways to celebrate this July 4th and enjoy the unique experiences national marine sanctuaries have to offer:

Photo credit: Anthony Goto

#1 Host a Family Picnic on the Shore

Whether its watermelon or barbeque, for many families, the Fourth of July means coming together and enjoying an all-American meal. This year, experience your picnic or potluck on the shore with a beautiful coastal backdrop. Generations of Americans have enjoyed these relaxing oases, which provide recreational fun for family members of all ages. Spread out a blanket on the shore, take a load off, and observe all types of creatures, such as crabs, turtles, and shorebirds like those you might see in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo credit: NOAA

#2 Bird Watch for Bald Eagles

Celebrate America’s birthday with the ultimate American icon: the bald eagle. Since 1782, the bald eagle has been a national emblem of American independence and freedom. This majestic bird is found throughout many of America’s marine sanctuaries, such as Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary and Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, as it always resides near a constant source of water. It can be found nesting in trees along the shore or gliding in the air above the water. You might even see one diving down at its top speed of 100 miles per hour to catch its prey!

Kids participating in a beach cleanup in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Photo credit: Nick Zachar

#3 Beautify “America the Beautiful” with a Beach Cleanup

Harmful trash and waste can wreak havoc on marine ecosystems while also posing a danger to visitors. One of the best ways to show your patriotism this holiday is keeping America beautiful and protecting fellow Americans by collecting waste from marine sanctuaries! Partnering with friends to do a trash clean up is a great way to enjoy sanctuaries while also keeping them healthy and safe. Go for a beach walk or jump on a paddleboard while you collect litter left behind in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and don’t forget to protect yourself with gloves and proper footwear!

Photo credit: NOAA

#4 Explore “Stars and Stripes” by Tidepooling, Fishing and More

Marine sanctuaries are teeming with stars and stripes – just not the types you’d find on the U.S. flag. Tidepooling and fishing are great ways to interact with marine ecosystems and observe species unique to the U.S. From sea stars lounging in tide pools to striped sea bass gliding underwater, sanctuaries offer endless opportunities for discovery and enjoyment as you celebrate America’s birthday. Try tidepooling in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to discover the creatures living within these coastal capsules. For recreational anglers, the rocky offshore habitat of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary provides a wealth of fishing opportunities!

In order to enjoy these special places into the future, it is critical that we protect our marine sanctuaries and their unique cultural resources now. This year, the National Marine Sanctuary System celebrates 50 years of ocean and coastal conservation. Help us keep the celebration going all year long, and take the Ocean Protector Pledge to help preserve our marine sanctuaries for generations to come.

A family explores a tidepool in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Photo credit: Matt McIntosh