Driving from the Bay Area to Monterey, we’ve gone through the Elkhorn Slough area many times but have never stopped until recently. The Moss Landing Power Plant’s large stacks and structures can be seen from miles away and it’s easy to overlook the beautiful estuary next to it if concentrating on the unsightly nature of the power plant. The area is truly a gem hidden in plain sight. We recently joined the Elkhorn Slough Foundation on a morning kayaking trip led by area experts and volunteers. The Slough is home to around 100 otters and many harbor seals, and it was such a joy to observe them from water level.
We respected the rules of the marine sanctuary and kept our distance from the animals. Fortunately, the animals are less than diligent about following rules and often popped up close by to check out what was going on.
The harbor seals, while shy, are curious and could often be found bobbing in the water just a little bit behind us, keeping a watchful eye. The otters, on the other hand, would sometimes come up right next to the kayaks, especially when munching on something or grooming. There is nothing cuter than watching an otter clean their whiskers after a messy meal. Ottters with pups kept their distance. Even so, it was wonderful to watch their interactions.
Birds are also a highlight of the Slough. We saw terns, white pelicans, brown pelicans, gadwalls, great blue heron, egrets, and common loons, among others. Moss Landing State Beach is also nearby and offers fantastic bird and wildlife viewing without the hassle of getting wet.
While in the area, definitely check out the research reserve and other hiking options. The Elkhorn Slough Foundation is a wonderful educational resource and offers a variety of programs through out the year. I’d highly recommend stopping by to support their conservation and educational efforts.
Things to know before you go:
- Kayaking is available year round through Monterey Bay Kayaks. I highly recommend a tour. Half the fun is learning something new!
- Opt for the wetsuit. The water is cold and you’re going to get wet. Wear sandals or shoes that can get wet and still be comfortable. And wear layers, it can be cold out there even in summer.
- Make a day of it and enjoy some of the other activities in the area such as the Research Reserve, the Moss Landing Wildlife Area, and the Salinas River State Beach.