ALVISO, Calif. (KTVU) - It's being called a hidden treasure in the South Bay in the small town of Alviso.
On Friday, Santa Clara County launched its first-ever boat tour out of the Alviso Marina giving schoolchildren a unique perspective on the ecosystem and climate change out on the water.
The Alviso Marina is home to marshlands, saltwater ponds and a national wildlife refuge.
"I've never been on a boat," said Elias Sauceda who is a 5th grader. "When they went fast the first time, my heart dropped in my stomach."
It's an adventure for students from George Mann Elementary School. Many of them grew up in Alviso and didn't realize the Marina was in their backyard.
They took part in a pilot program that allows students to explore this one-time big boating and shipping port of San Jose back in the 1850's.
"It really is a hidden treasure," said Anne Morkill of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex. "We like to talk about national wildlife refuges and say it's America's best kept secret."
"I never knew there were seals here in the harbor," said Sauceda.
The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office has jurisdiction over the waters. For now, they provide the boats and the deputies give the tours.
"It's awesome," said Tim Nguyen who is a 5th grader. "I love the boat ride and how we learn about nature."
Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese hopes to spark interest for tours for the general public, putting Alviso on the map and potentially spurring economic development in the future.
"This could be a crown jewel of Santa Clara County, certainly the city of San Jose. It could be our own little Sausalito."
For now, they're letting the Bay be an outdoor classroom on the water.
"This has definitely been the best trip I've ever been on," said Angel Salazar who is a 5th grader.