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Moss Landing Wildlife Area


Moss Landing Wildlife Area is an 872-acre property that is part of the largest unaltered salt marsh along the California coast. The tidal marsh is dominated almost exclusively by perennial pickleweed. The concentrated salts in the soil, residual from decades of brine concentration, are simply too saline for all but the most specialized salt-tolerant plant species to become established.

Elkhorn Slough is an essential 'pit-stop' for migratory shorebirds. Mammals such as harbor seal and sea otter also occur in the area. Many of the over 300 species of birds recorded in the watershed of Elkhorn Slough also occur within the Moss Landing Wildlife Area, most notably the Federally threatened Western Snowy plover. These plovers nest and feed in the Wildlife Area's former salt ponds.

Today approximately 150 acres of the wildlife area is managed to provide habitat to Western Snowy plover in spring and summer and flooded up in the fall and winter to provide wintering waterfowl habitat. The remaining 722 acres are managed under a muted tidal regime due to continuously eroding levees and are a mosaic of pickleweed habitats and some eelgrass beds. This tidal portion is open to waterfowl hunting during the season.

For more information, call the Marine Region Monterey office at (831) 649-2870 or the Central Region Fresno office at (559) 243-4005 ext. 151.

Recreational Opportunities

Waterfowl Hunting Wildlife Viewing

Activities: waterfowl hunting and wildlife viewing

link opens in new windowWaterfowl Hunt Map (PDF)

Hunting is not allowed in former salt ponds where plovers nest and feed.

Foot traffic on trails only.

PLEASE NOTE: For information on public use regulations for this area and other Department lands please refer to the link opens in new windowCDFW Public Lands Regulations booklet. Scroll to the Table of Contents. Locate the page number for general regulations for public uses on all Department lands. For additional regulations that apply only to certain properties, check the Table of Contents for sections that refer to additional or property-specific regulations for wildlife areas or ecological reserves. All visitors are responsible for knowing and following the general and property-specific regulations.

Area History

The Elkhorn Slough was once a large estuary at the mouth of the Salinas River. In the late 1800s, settlers to the area diked off selected lands within the slough for salt production. What would become the wildlife area was one of these areas. The salt was used in the local fish canneries.

Later when local canneries began to shut down, the salt produced in the area was used in the cooling process for products like ice cream and for road salt. The salt ponds continued operation until the late 1970s. After that, some of the ponds were used to raise brine shrimp for the home aquarium trade until the early 1980s. Throughout the entire period, waterfowl hunting continued to be the major recreational use of the salt ponds, usually under lease to private parties by the Western Salt Company. The property was designated as a wildlife area by the Fish and Game Commission in 1985.

Last update : 10/31/2018 9:35:08 AM

Wildlife Branch - Lands Program
1812 9th Street, Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 445-0411

Map of Moss Landing WA - click to enlarge in new window
Click to enlarge


Central Region (Region 4)

Monterey County

adjacent to the north bank of Elkhorn Slough, 1-1/4 miles north of the town of Moss Landing on Hwy 1

Access: Access for waterfowl hunting is by boat only and is not available in the former salt ponds adjacent to Hwy 1.

CDFW Lands Viewer