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Kayaking in Elkhorn Slough and general wildlife observing.

Cookeville...
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Kayaking in Elkhorn Slough and general wildlife observing.

Hi. We're planning a 2014 trip to Monterey Bay. We are middle aged and enjoy light to moderate outdoor activities and observing wildlife. From reading the posts, it sounds like October-November are optimal times for wildlife watching. Is that accurate? Are whales present at that time of year?

Is there another time that would be better, especially for seeing sea lions, while avoiding the peak seasons?

Seeing wild sea lions is one of our primary purposes of the trip. Are there sea lions at Elkhorn Slough at that time of year? What is the best way to observe wild sea lions in the bay?

One of the reviews shows that Monterey Bay Kayaks include spray jackets and weather gear in their rentals. Is what they provide sufficient for the conditions? We have gear, but I'd rather rent than have to transport it.

Thanks you in advance for your help.

Santa Cruz...
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1. Re: Kayaking in Elkhorn Slough and general wildlife observing.

This fall has been a banner one for whale sightings in Monterey Bay. Can't predict for next year.

Sea lions are present all year long. An expedition in Elkhorn Slough will reward you with many sightings of all kinds of sea life. You can rent a kayak for a DIY trip or take the "safari" boat into the slough.

http://www.elkhornslough.org/

http://www.elkhornslough.com/

www.kayakconnection.com/tours_page.php…

If you decide to kayak, I am sure they provide you with anything you need for keeping dry and safe. Tourists don't often carry gear like this with them. :~)

Sea lions are not rare. In nearby Santa Cruz, there is a colony which lives at the Municipal Wharf.

I am going to give you a link to a traveler article about Santa Cruz. This includes a link to a video of the sea lions in Santa Cruz, as well as other information....for example, the Exploration Center for the Monterey Bay Sanctuary, which has videos and displays of sea life, and also a link to the Long Marine Lab, connected to the University of California at Santa Cruz.

http://tinyurl.com/y4hnbu9

Enjoy your trip.

Santa Clara...
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2. Re: Kayaking in Elkhorn Slough and general wildlife observing.

Sea lions on the CA coast are very common and most of us don't even get too excited about them. :p We usually see them right at the marina at Moss Landing but not further up the slough. What is more unique to Elkhorn Slough is the opportunity to view sea otters. Because of the calm water in the slough, otters hang out there. A large group of them can usually be found at high tide floating together on their backs just at Moss Landing. We usually view them from the parking lot on Jetty Rd which is near the launch for most kayakers. Here is a link to an excellent documentary about the Monterey Aquarium's rescue and rehabilitation program of the otters. There is a very endearing clip of a mama otter hauling out her pup on a marina boat at Moss Landing to keep the pup safe. The rehabilitated otters are released at the slough.

pbs.org/wnet/…

Also seen at Elkhorn Slough are harbor seals. They usually hang out with the big group of otters by Moss Landing too. But we have seen them deeper up the slough.

As for whales, October-November is kind of in between season for whales. Summer (July -August) is blue whale season. Winter (Nov-Jan) is grey whale season.

If you want to see more marine mammals, consider heading further south to Pierdra Blancas to see the elephant seals. They are very easily seen just of the road. I don't think it's worth trekking out to Año Nuevo anymore since this colony is now permanent.

Have fun!

Edited: 07 December 2013, 16:26
San Francisco...
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3. Re: Kayaking in Elkhorn Slough and general wildlife observing.

Couple of observations based on when i went: Oct is relatively warm so should be fine. Go early in the morning as the winds pick up later during the day (in the opposite directions) thus making it harder to row. There are sea lions but most of them seem to be on shore sunning themselves. Sea otters (as Chinita can explain why) seen like the opposite. They are in the water swimming nearby. I don't expect whales to be in the Slough itself... I think for whales, you would need to find them in the open ocean rather than the slough (which is essentially like a "river" inlet.

While the rental places provide jackets, i personally preferred to wear my own gear. It wasn't like kayaking at Glacier Bay where it was important to wear full wet gear because we wiuld be wading in cold ocean water to get in or out kayaks. in the Slough, we could use "sit on top kayaks" which are above sea level and you get on or off without actually touching water. So the gear you need depends on whether you want regular kayaks and whether you plan getting in and out in the water.

A standard breathable windproof jacket that i would pack and wear on land seemed sufficient for me as i got hot rowing and water was calmer than in the open sea. It was the windproofness that was important.

Hope this helps

Edited: 07 December 2013, 16:32
San Francisco Bay
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4. Re: Kayaking in Elkhorn Slough and general wildlife observing.

Whales can be observed between December to February. One usually takes a whale watching boat out to the bay or open ocean, from Monterey or Santa Cruz. They are seeing a glut of whales this year.

Kayakers have been very surprised to see whales surface close to them lately. A little close for comfort!

San Francisco...
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5. Re: Kayaking in Elkhorn Slough and general wildlife observing.

Clarification: even with sit on top kayaks, do expect your feet to get a little wet. Life jackets will be provided.

Menlo Park...
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6. Re: Kayaking in Elkhorn Slough and general wildlife observing.

I haven't seen sea lions in Elkhorn for years, and not even inside the harbor. But more and more harbor seals both along the harbor and well as along the banks just inside the Slough. In July we counted 15 otters in mid-channel well up in the Slough, but not large rafts of otters as we used to see.

One thing that will improve your trip is to time your visit so that you don't have a large flood tide at the time you plan to return from the Slough. You will probably have to paddle against a west wind as you head home, but you don't want to have also to paddle against a strong current. A new moon or full moon high mid-day tide will allow you to paddle into parts of the Slough that are generally inaccessible. And then you will have a strong ebb tide to help you return. So get a tide table to help plan the timing of your trip.

Santa Clara...
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7. Re: Kayaking in Elkhorn Slough and general wildlife observing.

>>>There are sea lions but most of them seem to be on shore sunning themselves. Sea otters (as Chinita can explain why) seen like the opposite. <<<<<

I consulted with my in house biologist and learned from the documentary and many many visits to the aquarium. It is very rare for otters to haul themselves out of the water unless they are distressed or like that mama otter keeping the pup safe. Otters don't have blubber like harbor seals or sea lions. They can only keep warm by fluffing their dense fur up with air. I think this is best accomplished in the water.

We have been to Moss Landing multiple times all the seasons the past few years. Have always seen the raft of otters (again best at high tide so do check those tables). The sea lions are usually on the marina as noted above. The harbor seals are usually on the sand right below Jetty Road also swimming in the water.

Monterey Peninsula...
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8. Re: Kayaking in Elkhorn Slough and general wildlife observing.

As others have noted, sea lions are everywhere. You can easily find a lot of them on the breakwater at the Coast Guard Pier at the southern end of Cannery Row. You'll also see them in smaller numbers all along the shoreline anywhere between Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey and the Point Pinos lighthouse in Pacific Grove. They like to sun themselves on the rocks, but they're almost the same color as the rocks so they're not immediately obvious. Look carefully. This is also the best area for spotting sea otters.

Another great spot for wildlife is the lagoon at Carmel River State Beach, just a few blocks south of the Carmel city limit. You'll find several varieties of ducks, geese, pelicans, egrets, and if you're lucky maybe even a great blue heron.

A little-known park called Hatton Canyon behind Carmel High School is also a great place for bird watching. You might also see deer, or maybe even a bobcat. I have more info, directions, and map links on this page: www.montereypeninsula.info/guide/walking.htm

Speaking of deer, they like to hang out on the golf course around the Point Pinos lighthouse and the cemetery across the street.

By all means go to Elkhorn Slough if you want, but it's not necessary to go that far to find wildlife. There are plenty of great spots right here on the Monterey Peninsula.

-Mr. Toy

www.montereypeninsula.info

Edited: 08 December 2013, 01:10
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9. Re: Kayaking in Elkhorn Slough and general wildlife observing.

Whales increase in number heading south through December. Best time is November before winter storms start to arrive. For kayaking in Elkhorn Slough you will have the best time if you go in the early morning before the afternoon winds and aim for a slack tide or in incoming tide as you will be paddling from the harbor area up into the slough. No fun with strong winds or strong tidal current.

Weekdays you will have fewer other kayakers and no boats to contend with. There is a pontoon boat that takes tourists out on the slough and the operators are very aggressive in chasing down the otters, even mothers with pups, so I would go on a weekday when they are not operating.

The bird population doubles during the winter with migrating species making the area their temporary home. This includes the white pelicans.

Raleigh, North...
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10. Re: Kayaking in Elkhorn Slough and general wildlife observing.

We took a 3 hour guided tour via Kayak Connection in Moss Landing in early September of this year. Highly recommended. Guide was great.

Here's our flickr set that might help you get an idea of what we saw, wildlife-wise and due to photos of us, what we wore. It was a pretty chilly morning and overcast. With the spray skirts, we stayed dry and warm. I layered a few things and then wore a rain jacket.

flickr.com/photos/…