The official website of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
King Tides: A Glimpse into the Future of Elkhorn Slough

King tides are the highest high tides of the year. These seasonal high tide events help us envision how our communities might be impacted by rising sea levels due to climate change.

January 22, 2016 King Tide Volunteer Walk at 8:30am - This walk is open to Elkhorn Slough Volunteers. Join us on a walk to witness, photograph and learn about king tides. Meet at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve parking lot. Please RSVP to Virginia Guhin

Next King Tides: January 21 and 22, 2016


As partners in the California King Tides Initiative, we want to continue capturing what happens during extreme high tides — and we need your help to capture the moments.  Your photos can offer a living record of the changes to our coasts and shorelines, and a glimpse of what our daily tides may look like in the future as a result of sea level rise.

Below are a few suggested sites to take photos. Photographs of these sites during king tides will help to inform the research team at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. Click here to find out the ways to share your photos. Be sure to reference the photos with specific locations, orientation, date and time of day.

  1. Hudson Landing pullout along Elkhorn Road
    Take 1 photo on W side of road facing W towards RR bridge, take 2nd photo on E side of road facing E towards Porter Marsh. In both cases, have culverts in foreground. Publically accessible 24 hrs/day; be careful to park well off road on shoulder and take care crossing road.

  2. Kirby Park
    Stand about 10 feet SE of gate to paved nature trail. Take 1 photo to NW to look through gate and beyond at trail. Take 2nd photo to SE, capturing the rip-rapped parking lot edge and the dock in the distance. Publically accessible during daylight hours only. 

  3. Elkhorn Slough Reserve — South Marsh Footbridge
    Stand about 10 feet S of footbridge and take photo facing N, across bridge and beyond. Publically accessible along 20 min foot trail from ESNERR visitor center, 9 am - 5 pm on Wed-Sun only. 

  4. Moss Landing Beach — Jetty Road
    Stand facing west with views of the road and either side of the waterway in frame. Publically accessible during daylight hours only.

Have fun and please be careful. Take extra precautions when you walk on slippery areas or near big waves, and always be aware of your surroundings and the weather conditions. 

Download the 2015 tide chart or 2016 chart used by our Researchers that shows the highest high tides.


On December 12, 2012 the Slough, along with everyone else in coastal areas, got a view into the future - a view of what future sea level rise will look like. Read more about the December 12, 2012 King tides at Elkhorn Slough.

King Tides at Elkhorn Slough in the news December 19, 2014 (JPG, 683KB)

More resources about king tides in Elkhorn Slough from the Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program.


  • King tides are the highest tides of the year
    • Tides are the lifeblood of the estuary, and their daily rise and fall is natural.
    • Extreme tides are also natural: during the full and new moon weeks near the winter and summer solstice, we always have especially high and low tides
    • Low pressure systems associated with storms can also make high tides even higher than predicted
    • King tides are not in themselves a sign of climate change, just part of the natural rhythms of an estuary

  • King tides help us to envision future sea level rise
    • There is strong data showing that average water levels have been increasing on the California coast, and the height of these extreme high tides has been increasing even more than the average water level
    • Robust models make clear that sea level rise will accelerate over the coming decades, although no one knows exactly how much
    • King tides generally rise about 4 feet above average water levels, and are a good way of picturing what that future sea level rise will look like
    • Instead of a tide like this happening exceptionally, once or twice a year, high tides will reach this level every day, in a few decades, given current projections
    • This will have big implications for human infrastructure including flooding of roads, bridges, and railroad trestles around the estuary
    • Sea level rise will also have big effects on the animals and plants that depend on the estuary

  • Rising sea levels will affect estuarine biodiversity and habitats
    • Water levels affect distribution of animals and plants in estuaries: species are specialized for particular zones, that receive different levels of daily flooding vs. drying
    • Salt marshes are particularly vulnerable to changes in water levels, because they can only survive in a very narrow elevational zone, where they don't get too much or too little tidal flooding
    • Elkhorn Slough has some of the most extensive salt marshes left in California, after SF Bay, but existing marshes are in danger of being drowned as average sea levels rise

  • Restoration and conservation can support resilience of estuarine ecosystems in the face of sea level rise
    • Raising the elevation of salt marshes may help give them the needed “elevation capital”  to track sea level rise: ESNERR is currently initiating a sediment addition project to restore and sustain salt marsh in one part of the Reserve
    • Another approach is to facilitate the migration the upward migration of marshes as sea levels rise: such a strategy may be possible in parts of the estuary, because ESF, ESNERR, and other partners have succeeded in conserving many lands adjacent to today's salt marshes
    • Conserving wetlands and the species that depend on them requires this sort of a watershed view: boundaries are changing due to climate change, so our best bet is conservation and restoration at a watershed scale, so we can take care of the estuary as a legacy for future generations


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