The official website of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
Kayaking Elkhorn Slough: Low-impact paddling and wildlife

In California, over 90% of our coastal wetlands and estuaries have been destroyed. Remaining estuaries like Elkhorn Slough are extremely productive and harbor a remarkable diversity of life. For that reason, it is important that we treat this important habitat with respect.

Principles of Low-Impact Paddling

Launch and land at designated sites only: The only landing sites are Moss Landing North Harbor and Kirby Park. Do not step out of your boat onto the mudflats or marsh – the mudflats and marsh are full of delicate life, and it takes several years for the banks to recover from a footprint.

Leave nothing behind: Haul it in, haul it out, including food items such as fruit peels etc. Please pack out your trash.
Boat in open areas only: Any waterway east of the railroad tracks are off limits. There are also posted areas on the west side which are closed to boaters.

Harbor seals are a common sight here at the slough. © Cortland Jordan

Do not approach too near to wildlife: If an animal changes its behavior because of your approach, you are too near.


For a more information about the habiats and animals you will see visit Slough Life.

Birds: Spring and fall are the most exciting times to view migratory shorebirds at the slough. They migrate from northern breeding grounds in the Arctic to their southern wintering grounds. At these times, flocks of thousands can be seen flying over the marsh or feeding on the mudflats. Widgeon, Gadwall, and Shoveler ducks may be seen along with many of the common shorebird species.Summer brings Pelicans and Terns. They provide a Slough spectacle, plunging into the slough waters to capture prey. Brown Pelicans roost at the Moss Landing Wildlife Area during most of the Summer and Fall.

Sharks: In Summer, it is possible to catch glimpses of Smoothhound and Leopard Sharks with their fins cutting through the waters surface. An occasional Batray may be seen feeding in the shallow waters.

Fish: Topsmelt, spend their entire lives in Elkhorn Slough. California Halibut live offshore, but migrate into tidal creeks to breed. Food resources and protection from predators are among the benefits provided by these sheltered creeks.

Mudflats: The mudflats support tremendous numbers of invertebrates including clams, crabs, and worms. Preyed upon by birds and fishes, these animals form an important part of the food webs in Elkhorn Slough.

Marine Mammals: The main channel of the slough is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Give plenty of room\to Sea Otters, Harbor Seals and their haul-out sites, and to nesting birds. Observe animals cautiously. If they look in your direction and fidget, you are too close and should quietly back away.

  • Keep to mid-channel or maintain a distance of 200 feet while paralleling resting seals.
  • Avoid sudden changes in course and speed.
  • Refrain from standing, shouting, or sudden gestures such as waving and pointing.
  • Avoid directly approaching a haulout.
  • Avoid boating closely alongside the levee when approaching a haulout area.
  • Disruption of normal resting seal behavior may be characterized by: escape tactics such as stampeding off the haulout or slipping evasively off the mud; or nervous alarm postures such as head lifting or sitting-up.
  • Continual disruption may lead to abandonment of a previously frequented area.

Please help protect all plant and animal life in the slough. Only persons with scientific collecting permits or a valid fishing license may collect specimens or fish in the slough.


About us | Contact us | Staff | Employment | Newsroom | Site Map | Credits | Cart
This site is maintained by the Elkhorn Slough Foundation in partnership with the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve