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National Aquarium Floating Harbor Wetlands

Part of the National Aquarium in Baltimore’s Master Plan is to transform the canal between Piers 3 and 4, in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, into a 10,500 square foot floating wetland habitat. McLaren Engineering Group worked to transform their vision into a reality by engineering a floating shoreline ecosystem that attracts native species while improving water quality, and providing visitors a unique perspective of the salt marsh habitat and the critical role it plays in the health of the Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem.

To test the stability and resiliency of a large-scale project, McLaren’s Marine-Structures team engineered a 15-foot by 20-foot award-winning small-scale prototype that is currently exceeding expectations in the Aquarium’s waterfront campus in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

2017 Prototype

The initial prototype was developed using a variable buoyancy – zoned ballast system controlled from the floating dock.

With little buoyancy in reserve to counteract the added weight of maintenance workers and waves, the variable buoyancy, low freeboard floating system was engineered for added buoyancy and stability, allowing employees to stand on the edge of the wetland without it swamping.

Looking Ahead

The full scale of the floating wetlands includes a shallow channel through the center, which mimics natural tidal marshes throughout the Chesapeake Bay area.

This final model contains a new flotation system featuring scaled down wetlands to 8-foot by 12-foot platforms that connect through pinned connections. Our team, working alongside architecture firm Ayers Saint Gross, aims to complete this brand-new, immersive, educational National Aquarium experience in 2024.