An estuary is a place where fresh water from creeks and rivers mixes with salty ocean water.
Estuaries are among the richest habitats known. The confluence of creeks, wetlands, salt marshes, mudflats, sand dunes and open water attracts a tremendous variety of wildlife. Morro Bay, a small estuary of 2300 acres, is fed by Chorro and Los Osos Creeks and is protected from the Pacific Ocean by a lengthy sand spit.
"Watershed" is the term used to describe the area of land that drains water - either over land or underground - to a final waterbody via a network of creeks and stream. The Morro Bay estuary watershed consists of approximately 48,000 acres of land which includes the communities of Morro Bay, Los Osos, the California Mens Colony, Cuesta College as well as a great deal of open space. Environmental quality of the watershed directly influences the health of the estuary.
The estuary is a nursery for many species of fish that live as adults in the ocean. The shallow water, eelgrass beds and wetlands provide protected habitat and rich food sources for larvae and fry. Chorro and Los Osos Creeks also host steelhead trout, a threatened species that spawns in creeks but migrates to the sea.
Lagoons and wetlands were once common along the southern California coast, but almost all were filled and developed before their ecological importance was understood. Morro Bay has largely survived - a rare example of a bygone environment.
Morro Bay is an important stop-over on the Pacific Flyway and a critical winter home to numerous bird species.
In 2007, the Central Coast Region was the first of five statewide study areas to complete the Marine Life Protection Act planning and implementation process. This process began a network of statewide marine protected areas, which includes Morro Bay. Learn more about MPAs and the process through which they were created at the Estuary Nature Center or at the Dept. of Fish and Game website.
The people of Morro Bay and our guests love the Estuary and its priceless contributions to our Community. We depend on the Estuary Program to provide information on the Estuary's health and implement actions to ensure a vibrant future.
Noah Smukler, Morro Bay