Elkhorn Slough Experience
One of the last remaining coastal wetlands reserves in California
Moss Landing is a quaint, historic fishing village, located at the mouth of Elkhorn Slough. This small, eclectic seaport is the gateway to the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, California's second largest marine wetland and one of only twenty such areas in the nation.
This expansive tidal wetland is an important habitat for sea otters, harbor seals, and over 250 resident and migratory bird species. In addition, seven currently endangered species make their homes here, making Elkhorn Slough a "must see" for naturalists. Birdwatchers will especially enjoy trips during the fall and spring migrations, when thousands of birds descend upon the Slough, creating grand, colorful displays of aerial acrobatics.
Experience Elkhorn Slough by Kayak
Our waterfront location in Moss Landing provides easy beach access to the protected North Harbor of Elkhorn Slough. From there, a quick paddle east under the Highway One bridge (not into the ocean) takes you into Elkhorn Slough's main channel.
Rows of harbor seals slumber along the exposed mudflats, while sea otters float and play nearby. Pelicans, hawks, kites, and harriers soar effortlessly over the hillsides, as countless varieties of shorebird dabble delicately along the water's edge. The muddy, sandy banks are bordered by great expanses of tidal marsh and rolling, oak covered hills.
There are areas off limits to paddlers: the salt ponds, Reserve property beyond the railroad tracks, as well as landing on any mudflats other than at Kirby Park.
On weekends or by reservation, you can stop at Kirby Park (the only other public access site) and be picked up by our shuttle van.
For the adventurous, a labyrinth-like network of tidal creeks branches off from the main waterway, revealing a series of tidal creeks to explore. Just be sure the tide is rising, not receding, or you will get stuck in the famous Slough mud.
After your paddle, consider a trip to the Elkhorn Slough Visitors Center to round out your coastal adventure day. They have great scenic trails, picnic areas and an interpretive center that kids will enjoy.
- April to May—Spring bird migration and pupping season for otters and seals make Elkhorn Slough paddling a must. Daytime tides are mild but this can be one of the windiest times of the year. Click for our year round 2- or 3-hour natural history tours.
- July and August—Generally mild days but could be overcast, which is great for wildlife viewing and keeps the winds down. Take advantage of summer's longer, lazy days with our Sunset Tours and extended rental hours. Also, for intermediate level paddlers, start getting ready for our Coastal Expeditions to see humpback and blue whales on the ocean side of Elkhorn Slough.
- September and October—Usually the warmest and sunniest time of the year, and of course the annual fall bird migration, makes this a great time to explore the Slough.
- November to March—Usually clear and with less crowds but still tons of wildlife activity on the water. Winter days can have very strong tidal influences, so know your tides before you go, and check out our Ride the Tide Tours. Surf's up on the beaches of Moss Landing, a great time to sign up for Surfing in Kayaks.
Monterey Bay Kayak's Elkhorn Slough Paddling Map
To view this file, you need to use software that can read PDF files, such as Preview in Mac OS X or the free Adobe Reader.
Download the free Adobe Reader from Adobe's web site.
"Kayaker's Map of the Slough" (updated 3/29/11) is available from the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve on their official website. They also publish an excellent guide to low-impact paddling, and a brochure on the Elkhorn Slough Marine Protected Area.
- Click to view the "Kayaker's Map of the Slough" (opens a new web page)
- Click to view the "Kayaker's Map of the Slough" (PDF, 5MB)
- Click to view the "Principles of Low-Impact Paddling" (opens a new web page)
- Click to view the brochure of the "Elkhorn Slough Marine Protected Area" (PDF, 2.6MB)
If you are unable to download and view the file, please contact us and tell us to send you a paddling guide and map by US Mail. We'll be happy to send you one!
Moss Landing Location Directions and Store Hours
Moss Landing Location
2390 Highway One
(800) 649-5357 or (831) 373-5357
Daylight savings time begins!
Sunday, March 10, 2013 -
Friday, May 24, 2013
Open Daily 8:30am - 6:00pm
Saturday, May 25, 2013 -
Sunday, September 1, 2013
Open Daily 8:30am - 7:00pm
Parking fees for vehicles only are $3.74 for 4 hours or $6.24 for 12 hours. These fees are collected by the Moss Landing Harbor District for all vehicles parked in the North Harbor parking lot.