The official website of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
Elkhorn Slough Tips

Visitor CenterIdentifying Poison Oak

Watch this informative video to learn more about this toxic plant. Click here for even more...

Visitor CenterCheck out the Visitor Center

While you might have been to the Elkhorn Slough Visitor Center before, chances are there is something to be seen that wasn’t there the last time you visited.  Whether it’s a display on native oysters, the otters in the slough video or just new plants blooming on the plant table be sure to check it out when you pay your entrance fees and clean off your shoes.  Have you noticed the enormous sculpin fish—9 times larger than it’s real life counterpart?  Have you found the taxidermied ticks—a great visual aid for tick season?  Have you chatted with the volunteer or naturalists about the latest sightings in the slough? And, when was the last time you checked out the store merchandise (each purchase helps the Elkhorn Slough)?

Whatever you might be interested in learning, the Reserve’s Visitor Center is a good place to start the adventure!

NativesMind Your Natives
Did you plant native plants last fall?  The great thing about a native garden is how little attention it will need to flourish, but that first year you still need to give those sprouts a little TLC.  With this winter being so dry your plants may be feeling parched.  Spring is a good time to give them a little water, and some mulch to retain moisture.  After they get established their first year they will thrive on their own.

Want more tips on growing native species? Check out the Reserve's Native Species Planting Guide...

French BroomSpring Cleaning
April is the perfect time of year to clean up the watershed and throw out the broom--the French Broom.  French Broom (Genista monspessulana), like most other broom species, is a highly aggressive invasive species.  Most of the year it is hard to notice--it looks like a shrub and can grow between 2-5 feet tall.  Right now though this plant is flowering, and you can't miss the distinctive golden-yellow flowers it displays.  It is fairly easy to pull this shrub out of the ground, especially after rain loosens the soil around its roots, but a weed wrench may be helpful for unusually tough broom plants.  
French broom seeds can persist in the seed bank for decades.  Removing them  now, before the seeds are dispersed,  is crucial.   Once you know what to look for you'll see the yellow flowers of French broom everywhere—using valuable resources and displacing native plants.  So grab your gardening gloves, and look for yellow flowers this spring.  Let's return the central coast to the native plants together!

Get involved at the slough by joining the Stewardship Volunteer Drop-in every Monday, except holidays at ESNERR. 9:30am - 11:30am. Projects and sites change weekly. We provide gloves, tools, and light snacks. for details.

AmphibiansAmphibians on the move
Winter rains mean different things to different members of our community. Maybe for you it means a chance to turn off your irrigation or to curl up with a good book by the fire. For our amphibian friends, this is when thoughts turn towards the future...of the species! Local amphibians, such as the Pacific chorus frog, the California red-legged frog and the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander, are prompted by winter rains to migrate towards ponds to breed. Wet conditions allow them to make the trip without drying out. Salamanders will generally only move several hundred feet on their journeys, but a California red-legged frog can travel a few miles – so watch were you step and on the roads too. If you spot a frog or salamander on the move, please wish it good luck, but otherwise let it be! 

More about Elkhorn Slough's amphibians.

Take Better PicturesTake Better Pictures
The Elkhorn Slough Reserve is a hotspot of biodiversity, and offers many great opportunities to take beautiful photographs of landscapes, wildlife, and more.  If you want to get a great shot on your next trip, try these simple tricks:

Use a tripod: A tripod is a great way to keep you camera steady for a nice crisp shot.  If you bring one, please remember to disinfect its feet at the Visitor Center.  This helps prevent the spread of Sudden Oak Death in the watershed.

Adjust your camera’s resolution:  Most digital cameras will give you the choice of taking lots of low quality shots or fewer photos at a higher resolution.  If you want photos that look sharp, select a setting that will let you print at a resolution of 300 dots per inch (dpi), which is just the number of pixels divided by the size of the print.  And remember, most photos taken on a cell phone will look good on a screen or printed out as 4”x6” photos, but they tend to become pixilated at larger sizes.

Be patient: Some of the best photos we see are of animals engaging in activities like hunting for food, teaching their young new behaviors, or just relaxing.  If you stumble upon an animal they usually startle and need a few minutes to relax back into their normal behavior.  A great place to catch some truly candid behavior is the recently-reopened wildlife blind on the Parsons Loop trail.

And if you get a great shot, share it with us!  We love it when you share on our facebook wall or send submissions to our monthly Best Shot contest!

binocularsYour Taxes and ESF
Contributions of stock are accepted and offer donors the potential for considerable tax savings.  Donors can usually receive an immediate tax deduction for the value of the contributed shares of stock at the time donated and avoid paying capital gains taxes on stock that has appreciated significantly in value since purchased (to qualify the stock must be owned for more than one year). To see how a donation of stock would affect you personally please consult your tax advisor. 

If you are interested in contributing stock, our development staff will be happy to provide you with the information you will need to make the transfer.  Contact us by or 831-728-5939.

binocularsLooking for Otters at Elkhorn Slough
One of the best ways to spend your time here at the Elkhorn Slough is otter watching. The southern sea otter can be found year-round at the slough. Here at the Slough they can be found in open water or hauled out on the mudflats in the main slough channel, from Moss Landing harbor to Hudson Landing, but are most commonly seen in the North harbor area.

The best way to see otters is by kayak or boat. If you prefer to stay on dry land, you can see otters from many other locations including Moss Landing State Beach along Jetty Road, Moss Landing Wildlife Area, and Moss Landing Harbor right in town. Download our recreation map to see specific locations.

binocularsElkhorn Slough is For the Birds
You can find more than 340 species of birds here at Elkhorn Slough—but not all at once.  While some birds, like herons and egrets, are here year round, others may be off breeding in the tundra during the summer, or sunning in South America during the winter.
If you are hoping to see or hear a particular kind of bird, it’s best to make sure you’re coming at the right time of year.  You can find out more about particular birds by checking out our Slough Life web page (, our Sightings Blog ( or by reading trusted guidebooks like those sold in the Visitor Center.
And don’t forget to check out the Monterey Birding Festival ( this year!  It starts September 22nd and goes through September 25th.  Designed for birders of all levels, as well as outdoor lovers, the festival offers a unique opportunity to explore and learn about the world-class bird habitats you can find in and around the Elkhorn Slough!

Tick Season
If you find yourself taking notice of how beautiful the weather has been you can be sure that tick season is in full swing.  For Elkhorn Slough, tick season is from Spring to Fall, and it really picks up in warm weather.  While these tiny critters are hard to see, they can be avoided with the proper precautions.  
Ticks like to hitch hike from tall grasses and shrubs onto people walking nearby, so be sure to stick to the trails and avoid tromping through vegetation.  If you know you’ll be walking in an area with ticks, try to wear light-colored clothes, which makes their dark bodies easier to spot.  Using a spray-on tick repellant can also help deter these parasites.
One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from ticks is to check yourself thoroughly when you come in from the trails.  Make sure to do this right away and again when you get home.  
If you find a tick biting you, don’t fret: Lyme disease—which is often carried by deer ticks—has not been a problem in this immediate area, which has mostly American dog ticks.  Be sure to carefully remove the tick with tweezers and disinfect the bite. It is advisable to be alert in case any symptoms of Lyme disease do appear; a red rash (especially surrounding the tick bite), flu-like symptoms, or joint pains in the first month following any deer tick bite could signal the onset of lyme disease.
By following these steps you should be protected against any harm that ticks can cause. Remember: ticks in the Elkhorn Slough are more of a nuisance than a health threat, so get outside and enjoy that sunny weather.

The Visitor Center
The visitor Center has educated thousands of people since it opened its doors this month in 1985. Since then it has undergone some changes, but its spirit remains the same.

The VC is a place where you can see the watershed from many different perspectives. You can see a scale model that lights up to reveal you how water moves in the slough. You can see an enormous aerial short of the watershed. You can even view a hunk of mud that is nine times larger than life to see what it might feel like to be a fat innkeeper worm living on the slough bottom. There are fresh plants from the Reserve to help you identify the ones you like and there are touching stations where you can grab fossils, bones and more.

Our naturalists know just where to go to see bat rays, chickadees, and turtles, and they will even lead you on a guided hike on Saturdays and Sundays (at 10 and 1).

If you haven't stopped in the VC yet, swing on by and say high to the friendly staff and volunteers. You could learn something new.

See more about out our visitor center...

nestMother's Day!
Mother's Day is upon us, and we have a great way to honor the mom who has everything. When you give a gift membership to the Elkhorn Slough Foundation you can show your mom, grandma, sister, or friend that you know they care about protecting Mother Earth.

Your gift membership will support the work we do to preserve the Elkhorn Slough watershed. It will protect threatened habitats, teach students young and old about the biodiversity of this place, and nurture its growth.

A gift membership also gives mom special access to events hosted by the Foundation, from bird walks to kayaking trips and everything in between. Give the gift she'll love--protect the place she treasures.

walk!Walk for Conservation!
If you like to walk the trails at the Reserve, stroll through your favorite shops, or even run marathons, you can use your smart phone to help the Elkhorn Slough Foundation. By downloading the Green Boot Media app and applying each step you take toward the Elkhorn Slough Foundation (code #1113), you can make a real difference by doing what you do already.
Visit the website to find out more about how the app works.

binocularsSudden Oak Death Prevention
Sudden Oak Death is a tree disease caused by the plant pathogen Phytophthora ramorum. The disease has had devastating effects on forests in California and Oregon. By taking simple measures you can help prevent this disease from spreading into the Elkhorn Slough Reserve. Next time you visit the Reserve, simply wash your shoes, tripods and stroller wheels at the boot wash station located at the Visitor Center. Staff and volunteers are on hand to assist you or answer your questions.
For more information about Sudden Oak Death visit

binocularsGift Memberships
Throughout December, when you join or give a gift membership, we will include the 2011 Elkhorn Slough Foundation Calendar as a special bonus. The 8.5 x 11 calendar features full color photos of the sights around the Elkhorn Slough watershed. There are cute otters and seals, amazing photos of birds, and of course pictures of stunning scenery. The calendar also features information on tides – a must for any kayaker or boater – and member event dates. An Elkhorn Slough Foundation membership is wonderful year round, and with the calendar, you’ll be able to enjoy the slough every day. You can purchase a gift membership online now...

binocularsKayak the Slough
October is an excellent month to kayak the slough. The days warm up nicely, the winds and water are usually calm, and you can check the tides on your ESF wall calendar (the kayak shops can help with the tides times too). Going out from the harbor will get you some great views of otters, seals, and sea lions, while leaving from Kirby Park can provide good birding opportunities and grand views of the Reserve. Find out more about kayaking at the slough...

binocularsGoing to the Birds
Grab your walking shoes and join the birding tour the first Saturday of every month. This special tour offers an excellent way to enjoy the Reserve while learning about some of the 340 different resident or migratory Elkhorn Slough birds. Tour meets at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, the first Saturday of every month at 8:30am, binoculars provided. Find out more about tours...

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This site is maintained by the Elkhorn Slough Foundation in partnership with the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve