Elkhorn Slough

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Elkhorn Slough

Report from Ken

About halfway up the coastline of Monterey Bay, there is a little town called Moss Landing. The village itself is almost completely obscured by the huge power plant that hulks on one side and the extensive marina that occupies the other. There is a little sand beach, however, right next to a boat launch, that is a gateway to a completely different world


Moss Landing at dawn

2004 Azimuth Expeditions. All rights reserved

Elkhorn Slough stretches away to the east of Moss Landing, winding almost seven miles into the surrounding farmland and rolling hills of the Salinas watershed. One of the largest estuaries south of Oregon, Elkhorn Slough is an important niche in the local ecosystem for area wildlife, and a great sea kayaking destination. Flat water, beautiful sights and plenty of marine animals make this a perfect spot for paddle-powered exploration.

I slide my boat into the water at sunrise, take the big left turn and enter the slough with a rising tide. Even though there are now waves or swells inside the slough, the current can be a factor, and it is a very good idea to be going in the same direction.

Pelicans line the north bank, and at one place where old pilings stick out of the water, each of the ancient timbers has a pelican sitting on top of it, preening and grooming contentedly. A great blue heron wades in the shallows, stopping its feeding long enough to give me a glance, then returning to the hunt.

Farther up the slough, where the southern bank is nothing more than a muddy ledge barely higher than the water's surface, seals congregate in the sun. Fat and happy, they watch with liquid eyes as I float past. There are others in the water, circling my boat and escorting me past their relatives on shore.

After an hour of paddling inland, I turn the kayak around and start the return. Far in the distance, near my put-in, I can see the sunlight gleaming off the cars on Highway 1. I stay near the shore, using the contours of the land to help me as I paddle against the light current that still flows in from the bay. There is an otter floating on his back about a hundred yards ahead of me, eating something that he balances on his chest. A gull shadows him at close range, his webbed feet pushing him through the water in a strange game of follow-the-leader as he waits hopefully for the otter to drop a scrap of food.

It doesn't take long before I'm under the highway bridge and back to my starting point. I am already starting to think about the full day of work I have ahead of me, but from the perspective I have here at Elkhorn Slough, it all looks very easy. 
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