The official website of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
Kayaking at Elkhorn Slough

Kayaking at Elkhorn Slough has become a popular activity, so the safety of paddlers and boaters – and their impact on wildlife and the environment – have become urgent concerns. The best way to have a safe trip with low impact on the environment is to stay informed. We've provided information to help you enjoy your boating experience on the slough:

Kayaker's Map of the Slough (updated 3/29/11)

Guide to low impact paddling


Launching & Landing

Otter on a rainy dayThere are two main locations to launch your kayak or boat at Elkhorn Slough: Kirby Park, located on Elkhorn Road on the East side of the slough AND Moss Landing Harbor District Launch Ramp, located on Hwy 1, north of Moss Landing (near the kayak shops). Small watercraft can also launch in the Harbor of Moss Landing.

There are currently no legal landing sites in the slough except at the put-in places listed above. Please stay in your boat at all times. Please do not step onto the mudflats or marsh.

Moss Landing Harbor Safety

Be aware and safe within the Harbor Area – although the Slough is rather calm and serene, the harbor area near the mouth poses several challenges to paddlers.

Currents within the harbor area
Peak tidal currents (up to 3 knots) tunneling under the Highway 1 bridge create areas of rough water which can cause boats to capsize or be difficult to paddle against, potentially sweeping you into the pilings and docks or out to sea.

Boat Traffic
Many fishing boats and pleasure craft use the harbor entrance. Kayaks and canoes can be difficult to see. Observe the "rules of the road" and stay to the extreme right hand side of the channel or in the shallow areas entirely out of the main channel. Always turn your boat into the wake of a larger boat.

Current Conditions

The Slough's tides can give you a free ride back to your launch site, leave you stranded on a mudflat, or even wash you out to sea. Know the times of tides and the direction of tidal currents before you paddle out.

Tidal Currents and Slough Mud
While the main channel is deep enough at any tide level, many creeks need at least two feet of water to be navigable. When paddling up tidal creeks during an ebb tide (outgoing), be aware that a few minutes could make the difference between paddling out and getting stuck to the gunnels in sticky mud.

Strong afternoon winds, typically out of the northwest at 10 to 20 knots can be difficult to paddle against. Plan your trip to take advantage of the winds and currents.

If you have questions, please call the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve at (831) 728-2822.

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This site is maintained by the Elkhorn Slough Foundation in partnership with the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve