The Monterey Bay is home to some of the most diverse populations of marine and bird species in all of California. Monterey Canyon, a giant canyon that forms the geography beneath the bay, is the unique habitat that supports this diversity. This canyon is 95 miles long, and some areas it is nearly 2 miles deep. The area is enormously rich in in life sustaining nutrients, and the canyon's deep fissures make the Monterey Canyon an ideal environment for marine life.
Feeding on these marine life forms is an assortment of birds and invertebrates, and there is no better place to watch these animals feed than the Elkhorn Slough. Almost like an extension off of this canyon, the slough travels another 7 miles inland and covers 2,500 acres of salt marshes and mudflats. The variety and abundance of animals ebbs and flows with the tide, but it is estimated that 700 different species call this slough their home. With the limited amount of natural estuaries remaining in California, the Elkhorn Slough is an essential Pacific flyway for feeding, migrating, and mating birds.
The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve was built to protect, study, and manage the biodiversity of this environment, and 1,400 acres have been set aside for this purpose. The reserve is managed by the California Department of Fish and Game in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A network of state beaches and parks also protect this fragile environment and provides many opportunities to visit and enjoy the slough.