You can walk five miles of trails through Elkhorn Slough without getting wet. You can paddle a kayak through the seven-mile-long tidal slough and estuary from Moss Landing on the Bay, or from the east side of the reserve on Kirby Road. Although hiking and paddling are lots of fun, if you are a birder or photographer it’s hard to beat a tour on a pontoon boat with Elkhorn Slough Safari. This boat tour offers a stable, dry platform with elbow room for your cameras and telephoto lenses.
I went on this Los Gatos-Saratoga Recreation Department tour with nature photographer Cindy Tucey. Although you can book a tour directly from the boat company, it was good to have some guidance from an experienced slough photographer and naturalist. We met at the Moss Landing Harbor parking lot in “downtown” Moss Landing. Parking is $7.
To add some extra value to your trip, be sure to visit the reserve’s visitor center. Drive past the Moss Landing power plant on Highway 1, turn east on Dolan Road, go 3.5 miles, turn left on Elkhorn Road, go 1.9 miles, then turn left at the reserve gate. Admission to the visitor center is free, but you can walk the trails for $4.12 if you have a credit card. Docent tours are available on Saturdays and Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Special birding tours meet the first Saturday of each month at 8:30 a.m. The reserve and visitor center are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
We saw lots of California sea lions, harbor seals, and charming sea otters, including a mother carrying her baby on her stomach. We saw the endangered brown pelicans, giant great blue herons and egrets, stately cormorants, busy sandpipers, funny curlews, other water fowl, and local and migratory birds. (A group of bird watchers in September counted 44 species.) It is definitely a birder’s paradise.
Some of us on the tour saw many fishes, too. Fortunately, for us, they were on plates served at Phil’s Fish Market and Eatery. It wasn’t fancy, but after being on the water for several hours, we made short work of the oceans’ bounty.