Elkhorn Slough aerial view, Monterey Bay, California, USA. Photo by Frans Lanting.
About Elkhorn Slough
A landscape embraced by the sea
Elkhorn Slough is a remarkable sanctuary for wildlife, tucked into a patchwork landscape of farms, ranches, and residential communities,
The slough provides habitat for a diverse population of birds, plants, marine mammals, and fish. High concentrations of Southern sea otters reside here, and hundreds of harbor seals loaf along the shore. Large groups of California sea lions add a raucous chorus in the spring. As part of the Pacific flyway, tens of thousands of birds pass through every year.
The dynamic life of Elkhorn Slough includes rare plants, animals, and ecosystems—from oak woodlands and maritime chaparral to endangered marshes and wetlands.
These wetlands also provide critical environmental services, filtering impurities from the water before it enters our streams and oceans. Wetlands are incredible carbon sinks, too, removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to slow the onset of global warming.
Tidal creeks in salt marsh, Elkhorn Slough, Monterey Bay, California, USA. Photo by Frans Lanting.
What is an Estuary?
An estuary is a coastal body of water, partly enclosed and partly open to the sea, where fresh and salt water can mix. This creates a unique environment for plants and animals adapted to brackish, or slightly salty, water. Estuaries are some of the most delicate, and productive, ecosystems on earth.
How do you say "slough"?
The word slough, which rhymes with “grew,” refers to a type of wetland that winds its way through marshy, swampy ground. Like most sloughs, Elkhorn Slough is a quiet backwater to a larger body of water—in this case, Monterey Bay.
Elkhorn Slough has a long and varied past. From the earliest inhabitants 8,000 years ago to the agriculture and industry of today, this place has seen tremendous change. Since the 1920s, when Stanford’s George and Nettie MacGinitie came here to perform the first-ever ecological study of a California estuary, the slough has been a hotbed of marine conservation and research. And the last 50 years have seen significant investment in protecting it, in acknowledgment of its extraordinary richness and importance for wildlife.
The Importance of Conservation
Unsustainable farming practices, development, and other environmental stressors threaten the health of the slough and its habitats.
The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve and Elkhorn Slough Foundation, along with our partners the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, work to preserve, restore, and share this rare and delicate place.
You can be our partner, too. Together we will ensure that future generations can discover and explore the wonders of Elkhorn Slough.
Coastal farmland near Moss Landing, Monterey Bay, California, USA. Photo by Frans Lanting.
Photo by Jennifer Riggin