Elkhorn Slough is one of the last coastal wetlands in California and one of 27 estuaries in the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, set up to study and protect estuaries and coastal watersheds across the U.S.
Located inland from Monterey Bay near the town of Moss Landing, it’s considered one of the best places for wildlife viewing and is California's second-largest marine wetland. The Slough is an important habitat for otters, harbor seals and over 250 bird species.
Seals and otters spend time resting and playing in the calm environment of this expansive tidal wetland. By the mouth of the slough, near the harbor, sea otters are the area's denizens. Most of the 60 to 90 sea otters residing there have lost their fear of humans and swim around kayaks, tugging at their bungee cords. The slough teems with wildlife almost within reach of your kayak.
This is an excellent paddle for beginners and a must-see for land-based naturalists. Kayaks can be launched at only two places in the estuary, however: Kirby Park (near the Elkhorn Slough Visitor Center) and the Moss Landing Harbor District launch ramp.
Most of the estuary's channels and side channels are accessible at least at high tide. Several hiking trails bisect the preserve, but a kayak is the best way to take it all in.