As a national estuarine research reserve, South Slough’s primary task is to study and learn about estuaries – those places where rivers meet the sea. Over the years scientific researchers at South Slough have learned much about how estuaries work, what benefits they provide for fish, wildlife and humans, and what is necessary to make them thrive. Beyond that, South Slough provides a place where elementary, high school, college and post-graduate students can learn about essential benefits that only estuaries provide.
The South Slough inlet provides many outstanding types of habitat, from forests to mudflats, and from cattail marshes to salty bays. These areas are home to many animals and birds year round, such as elk, river otters, raccoons, bobcats, deer and bear, as well as migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. Unusual carnivorous plants may be found in secretive bogs or nooks.
The magic of South Slough moves with the water as it changes from fresh to salty and back again with each turn of the tide. Long-legged wading birds are most easily seen as they stalk fish in the open channels. More difficult to see are the oysters, Dungeness crabs, salmon and other fish swimming and growing among them. Buried beneath the surface of the mud are clams, mudshrimp, and millions of tiny worms and invertebrate creatures that make their livings out of sight beneath the surface.
More than 3,000 elementary school students visit South Slough each year. The curriculum involves the students, teachers and parent volunteers in a educational experience designed to help them learn about many exciting features of estuaries. The curriculum was developed according to statewide science education guidelines and with recommendations of teachers.
South Slough also plays an important role in supporting statewide college educational programs.
The interpretive center on Seven Devils Road is the primary destination for more than 25,000 visitors each year. From its location on a timbered ridge top, views stretch north and east across much of the 4800 acres of forests, streams, meadows, salt marshes and mudflats to the bay 300 feet below. Besides the Friends of South Slough Bookstore and More, the center provides trail information, brochures, activity calendars, exhibits, an auditorium and a classroom. Many activities – including education and public involvement for adults, and play for toddlers, are scheduled throughout the year.