Elkhorn Slough on the Monterey Bay represents one of the few remaining salt-water wetland habitats in California. Less than 10% of these tidal salt marsh habitats remain. The Elkhorn Slough and its watershed encompass only 70 square miles. This location and incredible biodiversity make it a unique and critical habitat. www.elkhornslough.org
Elkhorn Slough extends over seven miles from its mouth at the Moss Landing Harbor to its base at Carneros Creek. The combined marshes encompass 4,128 acres. On the water, in a kayak or canoe, it is not uncommon to meet literally dozens of sea otters, harbor seals, pelicans, raptors, and countless shorebirds. Depending on the season, you may encounter the fins of various species of sharks and bat rays as they come in from the open ocean to forage, breed, and bear young in the muddy shorelines of the Slough. The near shore ecosystems of the Slough are widely considered "nurseries" for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.Investment in Restoration
Protection and restoration has been accomplished by various organizations such as the Elkhorn Slough Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, the California Department of Fish and Game, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, and numerous private and public organizations.Globally Important Bird Area
Over 30 million dollars and tens of thousands of volunteer hours have been spent. These private and government funds have been spent for water quality improvements, land acquisition for conservation, and the restoration of degraded habitats.
A hallmark of these endeavors has been the increase in various species to be found in the Slough, including growing populations of sea otters and harbor seals. It is through these efforts that the Slough is a nationally recognized wildlife area.
Elkhorn Slough has been designated a Globally Important Bird Area because it represents one of the most significant stopover points on the Pacific Flyway for migrating and over wintering birds. The Slough has also been recognized as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve. The National Audubon Society annual bird census ranks the Elkhorn Slough and its immediate area as one of the most diverse count locales in North America.
Nationally Recognized Wildlife Area
This incredibly diverse ecosystem features over 340 species of birds and an abundant population of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and insects, all of which are dependent on the Elkhorn Slough and its watershed. Elkhorn Slough had the honor of being the first National Estuarine Research Reserve in California. There are only 27 of these reserves in the entire country. The reserve has over 60,000 visitors a year. More than 10,000 of these visitors are students.Threatened and endangered species
In just this limited 70 square mile area, there are at least thirteen threatened and endangered species and another dozen species of concern. These include the Southern Sea Otter, the California Brown Pelican, the California Red-legged Frog, and Maritime Chaparral to name a few. (More but not all: California Brackishwater Snail, California Least Tern, California Tiger Salamander, Eastwood's Goldenbush, Gairdner's Yampah, Hooker's Manzanita, the Monterey Ceanothus, Monterey Spine Flower, Mountain Plover, Pajaro Manzanita, Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamander, the, Southwestern Pond Turtle, Western Snowy Plover, and Yadon's Piperia.)Archaeological sites
There are 48 registered archaeological sites within the Elkhorn Slough and its watershed. The largest of these, an Ohlone (Costanoan) midden, is located directly at the base of the drainage for a proposed golf course expansion and upscale subdivision.Scenic Roadway and Waterway
Monterey County has designated the Elkhorn Slough as an official "Scenic Waterway". They have also designated portions of Elkhorn Road adjacent to the Slough as a "Scenic Roadway". Surrounded by gently rolling hills of oak groves, grass meadows, maritime chaparral, sandstone escarpments, and sweeping vistas, one cannot help but be impressed by the Elkhorn Slough's unique beauty.
For more information FANS recommends the following publications: Elkhorn Slough Watershed Conservation Plan, Elkhorn Slough at the Crossroads and Changes in a California Estuary. These are available through The Elkhorn Slough Foundation web site. (www.elkhornslough.org)
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modified on December 6, 2003.
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