In 1974 the South Slough became the first of what today is a network of 28 National Estuarine Research Reserves under the auspices of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency. Primarily set aside as a research location to advance the preservation of estuary environments, it is available today as a recreational and educational resource that everyone can enjoy.
Located at the southernmost extension of Coos Bay, this estuary reserve covers 4,000 acres and encompasses the watershed for over a dozen creeks. The reserve contains forests, salt marshes, mudflats and water channels and is home to a wide variety of plant and animal life, including black bear, elk, bobcats and salmon. There is an excellent Interpretive Center that makes a good starting place for a visit. There are several trails leading from two parking areas, and the shortest path to the shore of the slough is about a mile.
A great loop to explore much of the reserve involves taking the North Creek Trail from the Interpretive Center and following it all the way to the slough (1.5 miles), then after exploring the Sloughside Marsh and overlooks, taking the Railroad Trail south to the lower parking area and returning to the Interpretive Center via the road or the Middle Creek Trail. Total distance is about 3 miles.