Morro Bay – It’s in our nature

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

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Morro Bay is home to variety of natural wonders

Morro Bay – those who live here often refer to it as Paradise. That’s because this coastal fishing town has so much to offer in the way of natural wonders. The National Audubon Society lists the town as a Globally Important Bird Area – over 200 species of birds has been sighted here – and there are sea otters, sea lions, harbor seals, tide pools, kayaking, sailing, fishing, surfing, golfing, hiking, biking, and camping – all this and more in this eco-friendly town. Add in the great hospitality, plentiful fine dining, shopping, and fun festivals and you will find something special in Morro Bay at any time of year.

For our nature-minded friends, we have a waterfront walk – with Morro Rock as your landmark, head down to the waterfront and look for the power plant stacks. Across the street is a parking area and the beginning of the boardwalk that will take you out to the Rock. This is a nice, easy dog-friendly walk; watch for the water birds like cormorants and grebes that frequent this area. When you are almost to the Rock you have a good chance of seeing several sea otters; they like to feed and rest in the eelgrass fronds near a large outcrop of stone called Target Rock. You may see mothers with their pups or a larger congregation of otters called a raft.

Morro Rock, a 576-foot volcanic plug, looms over the bay and seashore and is an ecological preserve where nesting peregrine falcons reside. With binoculars you can search up to the top of the Rock to try for a sighting. These birds yearly build nests on both the north and south sides of the Rock; you may spot one as it soars off the cliffs on a hunting spree. Peregrines prey on small birds and often snatch up unsuspecting shorebirds feeding on the bay.

Retrace your steps to the parking lot and continue your walk down the Embarcadero. Along the way there are outfitters for kayaking and stand up paddle board adventures as well as tour boats that take you out on the water or over to the sand spit; all of these get you out near the floating dock where a group of sea lions haul out. Great photo opportunities await; should you choose to venture out via tour boat, you will have plenty of time to take some fun shots.

Whale watching tours are available; during the June migration humpback whales pass close by Morro Bay. In winter months, gray whales may be spotted on their way to Baja, California and again on their return past Morro Bay in spring.

Commercial fishing boats work on the waterfront; book day sport fishing or bring your fishing pole and lawn chair, find a spot on one of the T-piers and cast your line into the water.

Leave the waterfront and drive south on Main Street to Morro Bay State Park. An 18-hole golf course is on your left and further down on the right is a small pull-out for parking. A path through the eucalyptus trees brings you to an informational sign about the Heron Rookery State Reserve. From late January to June watch the mating, nesting, and young hatching of great blue herons, great egrets, black-crowned night herons, and double-crested cormorants; this spot has been used by these birds for decades as a nursery.

Stop at the next pullout at the water’s edge known as Windy Cove, a great spot to sit in your car and observe the many birds of Morro Bay. As the name implies, this area can often be breezy.

Shorebirds love to feed in the rich mudflats here; observe marbled godwits, long billed curlews, willets, sanderlings, and sandpipers. From this vantage point, view the sand spit; with binoculars you may spot the resident 40-60 white pelicans.

Continue along the road and turn off to the Marina, park, and take the paths to view the salt marsh estuary and observe birds. A kayak outfitter is located in the Marina; this is also a great spot to launch your own kayak and paddle the Back Bay and, during a good high tide, paddle around into the channels of the estuary where you will find an abundance of bird life and maybe see harbor seals hauled out along the edges of the channels.

Morro Bay – with trails to walk, hikes to take, boating, fine motels and dining and more – a day visit or an extended stay here is sure to be in your nature.

— Ruth Ann Angus

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