Moss Landing Wildlife Area

Notice: The Moss Landing Wildlife Area parking lot will remain closed while we work on facility upgrades. Parking is available across Highway 1 at the boat ramp.


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

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

Type C: Moss Landing Wildlife Area does not require the purchase of a hunting pass for entry. Entry permits and/or passes or special drawing may be required for hunting on some Type C wildlife areas.

Waterfowl Hunt Map (PDF)

Foot traffic on trails only.

NOTE: Visitors are responsible for knowing and complying with all regulations pertaining to the use of Department lands.

Refer to the Public Uses on State and Federal Lands section of the Waterfowl, Upland Game, and Public Use Regulations (PDF) booklet for both statewide and property-specific regulations.

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You may not operate a drone on CDFW Lands without a Special Use Permit.

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.

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