Moss Landing, on the eastern shore of the bay, at the head of the great submarine valley, lies 12 miles 36° true (N by E % E mag.) from Point Pinos and 14 1/2 miles 128° true (ESE 4 E mag.) from Santa Cruz lighthouse. It has a small amount of domestic trade— lumber and general merchandise being received and grain, fruit, and farm products shipped. A wharf has been built out to deep water, the depth at the end varying from 30 to 50 feet, according to the season of the year, being less in winter. The anchorage is unprotected, but the holding ground is good; vessels anchor southward of the wharf to avoid the deep water off the end. The prevailing winds are northwesterly, with a few southeasterly gales during the winter; the latter are dangerous to vessels at anchor. No supplies can be obtained except by previous arrangement. Communication is had by regular coasting steamers and by rail.
—United States Coast Pilot, Pacific Coast, Third Edition, 1917
Most of the earth’s continents are girded by shallow shelves that slope gently away from the land for many miles, their depths seldom greater than a few hundred feet. On the East Coast of the United States, the shelf stretches for more than one hundred miles in many spots, before giving way to a steep slope that drops into the abyss. On the West Coast, the shelf is narrower but still a substantial barrier to the deep. Off Monterey, things are different. Here an enormous canyon cuts the continental shelf in two, bringing deep water remarkably close to land The canyon is so close that erosional forces at its tip keep nibbling away the old pier at Moss Landing, located at the bay’s midpoint. The dilapidated pier used to be twice as long, but with troubling regularity its leading edge keeps tumbling into the head of the invisible canyon.
—William J. Broad, Dimitry Schidlovsky, The universe below: discovering the secrets of the deep sea, 1998
Salmon and steelhead were also abundant in Elkhorn Slough. They were caught with gill nets here in the early part of this century by local fisherman, along with the introduced striped bass, which were sometimes as large as 50 pounds (per. comm. Bill Leeman). In the early1900’s Bill Leeman’s father rented boats to hunters at Moss Landing. He tied the boats near the only major culvert that blocked Moro Cojo Slough at Moss Landing Road. Steelhead were so abundant and persistent in their leaping efforts to swim past the culvert that it was young Bill’s job to remove trapped fish from the rental boats. Leeman also recalls catching salmon with other boys from the Moss Landing pier with bent nails attached to string (1900-1910). Although these observations were made during the Reclamation Period, the anadromous and freshwater fishes must have been extremely abundant throughout the Monterey Bay, and its rivers and wetlands for hundreds and probably thousands of years.
Elkhorn Slough Wetland Management Plan, California State Coastal Conservancy & Monterey County Planning Department, December 1998