April 8, 2014

Get to Know Your MPA Monday

Elkhorn Slough Marine Reserve

Imagine a place where you can see a variety of migrating birds, leopard sharks, harbor seals and the largest population of sea otters along the west coast, all in one afternoon.  This is the reality at Elkhorn Slough Reserve.  Because of the amount of diversity in this 1,700-acre slough, it was declaired a Marine Reserve in 2007, the highest level of protection for a Marine Protected Area.

Photo by Ted Belleza
Elkhorn Slough wasn't always the haven it is today.  Back in 1913, the land was owned by Empire Gun Club who used it as a hunting marsh.  They even installed dikes to create a string of ponds for duck hunting.  After the Gun Club left around 1940, the slough was drained and transformed into a pasture for cattle.  Some of the original barns can still be seen at the slough (pictured below).

Photo by Miwa

It wasn't until 1979, when the Department of Fish and Wildlife purchased the land, that the restoration of this important estuary began.  The dikes were removed and the estuary was filled with brackish water (a mix of ocean and fresh water).  

This unique habitat attracts visitors from all over the world.  Especially bird watchers who come to see the extreme range of over 340 species who migrate through this area and some that live there year-round including the endangered Snowy Plover.

Photo by californiampas.org
The Elkhorn Slough Marine Reserve was established in 2007 with the rest of the Central Coast Marine Protected Areas.  The reserve boundary starts about a mile upstream from the Highway 1 bridge and extends all the way to the dock at Kirby Park.  The remaining mile in between Highway 1 and the reserve is the Elkhorn Slough Marine Conservation Area which allows only for fishing and harvesting clams, all other species are protected.  

Are you interested in visiting this mystical place?  You can rent a Kayak from our friends at Kayak Connection, trust us, you will not be disappointed!

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