A Paddle on the Wild Side

Elkhorn Slough and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

As you approach the fishing village of Moss Landing on California Highway 1 the view is dominated the cooling towers of the Moss Landing Power Plant, the tops of the towers often obscured by grey cloud. It is an inauspicious start to your day but don’t be put off. You will soon forget the proximity of the 2,538 megawatt natural gas power plant and the cooling effect of the ubiquitous marine layer is a blessing. If it is cloudy it is unlikely to be windy and bodes for a very comfortable day on the water.


Kayak Connection have been running tours and renting kayaks and SUP’s on Elkhorn Slough for decades and they have a selection of Jackson Kayaks to choose from. Whether you choose to do a tour, rent a kayak or bring your own you are bound to have a truly unforgettable experience.

Elkhorn Slough is a tidal estuary and has the largest area of salt marsh on the California coast outside of San Francisco Bay. Novice or expert, a paddle on Elkhorn Slough is a wonderful way to spend your day. You are guaranteed to see sea otters, sea lions, harbor seals, pelicans, terns, gulls, cormorants, guillemots and a variety of shorebirds.

But what makes Elkhorn Slough truly unique is its relationship with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and specifically, the Monterey Canyon. The Monterey Canyon is a mile deep (think Grand Canyon size) submarine canyon that begins with Elkhorn Slough and extends 95 miles into the Pacific Ocean. Regular upwelling of nutrient rich water results in one of the richest marine ecosystems on the planet and an abundance of wildlife that can be enjoyed no matter how experienced a kayaker you are. More experienced kayakers can venture out of Moss Landing Harbor to view the humpback whales that feed all summer on the millions of anchovy that shoal just a few hundred yards outside the harbor. Be aware that this can be hazardous; there is a lot going on with a frenzy of feeding wildlife as well as lots of boat traffic including whale watching boats and large commercial fishing boats. You should give plenty of distance between you and the whales – they can move fast and unpredictably. The red and white buoy marks the start of the boat channel into the harbor and you should stay well clear. Beware – the commercial boats do not slow down!

I took my family for a paddle on Elkhorn Slough in Jackson Kayaks. We paddled less than a mile and saw all the stars of the show. It is remarkable how habituated the harbor seals and sea otters have become to the presence of kayakers and it is impossible to stay a hundred yards from them as they literally surround you. By being quiet and respectful you can get really close to these wild but adorable animals.

My kids loved it and the Jackson Cruise 12 and Tripper 12 proved to be the perfect craft for the experience with plenty of space for the kids. I hope you enjoy our short video:

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