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Elkhorn Slough: Wikis


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Aerial view of the mouth of Elkhorn Slough on Monterey Bay

Elkhorn Slough is a tidal slough and estuary on Monterey Bay in Monterey County, California. The community of Moss Landing and the huge Moss Landing Power Plant are located at the mouth of the slough on the bay.

Elkhorn Slough harbors the largest tract of tidal salt marsh in California outside of San Francisco Bay and provides much-needed habitat for hundreds of species of plants and animals, including more than 340 species of birds.

The Slough's wildlife and habitats are protected by two marine protected areas, the Elkhorn Slough State Marine Reserve (SMR) and Elkhorn Slough State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA). The combined areas cover 1.57 square miles (4.1 km2).[1] All marine life is protected within the reserve, while in the SMCA limited fishing and clam taking is permitted.[2]

Additionally, the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve is one of 27 National Estuarine Research Reserves established nationwide as field laboratories for scientific research and estuarine education.


Marine Protected Areas

The Elkhorn Slough State Marine Reserve (SMR) and the Elkhorn Slough State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) were established in September 2007 by the California Fish & Game Commission. It was one of 29 marine protected areas adopted during the first phase of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative. The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (or MLPAI) is a collaborative public process to create a statewide network of marine protected areas along the California coastline.

Elkhorn Slough SMR and SMCA are adjacent to the Moss Landing Wildlife Area and are near the Moro Cojo Estuary State Marine Reserve.[3]


Elkhorn Slough State Marine Reserve

The Elkhorn Slough SMR covers 1.48 square miles (3.8 km2). All take of living marine life is prohibited within the reserve. It includes the waters below mean high tide within Elkhorn Slough lying:

  • east of longitude 121° 46.40’ W. and
  • south of latitude 36° 50.50’ N.

Elkhorn Slough State Marine Conservation Area

The Elkhorn Slough SMCA covers 0.09 square miles (0.23 km2). It includes the waters below mean high tide within Elkhorn Slough:

  • east of the Highway 1 Bridge and
  • west of longitude 121° 46.40’ W.

Harvest of finfish (by hook-and-line only) and clams are allowed within the conservation area only.[2] Clams may only be taken on the north shore of the slough in the area adjacent to the Moss Landing State Wildlife Area.

Habitat and Wildlife

Elkhorn Slough, one of the largest estuaries in California, provides essential habitat for over 700 species, including aquatic mammals, birds, fish, invertebrates, algae and plants. The numerous vegetative species include such wildflowers as Yellow Mariposa Lily, Calochortus luteus.[4]

Elkhorn Slough hosts year-round residents tightly associated with estuaries, such as pickleweed, eelgrass, oysters, gaper clams, and longjaw mudsuckers, as well as important seasonal visitors such as migratory shorebirds, sea otters, and sharks and rays. Habitat types include mudflats, tidal creeks and channels.[5]

Recreation and Nearby Attractions

Along with hiking and bird watching, kayaking is a popular activity on the slough. Watching sea otters, sea lions, seals, brown pelicans, American avocets, cormorants, egrets, terns and a host of other wildlife from the water is an experience that provides a unique perspective of how the slough is used by the native inhabitants.

The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve and Elkhorn Slough Foundation provide on-site management, education, and stewardship and offer public access via 5 miles (8.0 km) of trails, as well as a Visitor Center and volunteer opportunities.

The nearby Moss Landing Wildlife Area protects 728 acres (2.95 km2) of salt ponds and salt marsh. Limited recreation is permitted within the Wildlife Area.[6]

California’s marine protected areas encourage recreational and educational uses of the ocean.[7] Activities such as kayaking, diving, snorkeling, and swimming are allowed unless otherwise restricted.

Scientific Monitoring

As specified by the Marine Life Protection Act, select marine protected areas along California’s central coast are being monitored by scientists to track their effectiveness and learn more about ocean health. Similar studies in marine protected areas located off of the Santa Barbara Channel Islands have already detected gradual improvements in fish size and number.[8]


  1. ^ California Department of Fish and Game. “California Marine Life Protection Act Initiative Summary of Central Coast MPAs as Adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission”. Retrieved on December 22, 2008.
  2. ^ a b California Department of Fish and Game. Online Guide to California’s Central Coast Marine Protected Areas. Retrieved on December 18, 2008.
  3. ^ California Department of Fish and Game. "Central Coast Marine Protected Areas". Retrieved December 23, 2008.
  4. ^ * C. Michael Hogan. 2009. Yellow Mariposa Lily: Calochortus luteus,, ed. N. Stromberg
  5. ^ Department of Fish and Game. "Appendix O. Regional MPA Management Plans". Master Plan for Marine Protected Areas (approved February 2008). Retrieved December 18, 2008.
  6. ^ Department of Fish and Game. “Moss Landing Wildlife Area”. Retrieved December 23, 2008.
  7. ^ Department of Fish and Game. "California Fish and Game Code section 2853 (b)(3)". Marine Life Protection Act. Retrieved December 18, 2008.
  8. ^ Castell, Jenn, et al. "How do patterns of abundance and size structure differ between fished and unfished waters in the Channel Islands? Results from SCUBA surveys". Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) at University of California, Santa Barbara and University of California, Santa Cruz; Channel Islands National Park. Retrieved December 18, 2008.

External links

Coordinates: 36°48′37.97″N 121°46′59.67″W / 36.8105472°N 121.7832417°W / 36.8105472; -121.7832417


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