Salinas River

Why is the Salinas River So Important?  

The Salinas River is the Central Coast's largest river and has the fourth* largest watershed in California, flowing 170 miles from the mountains of San Luis Obispo County northward to Monterey Bay.  Most rivers in California flow west or south.  Because it flows northward and has one of the largest subsurface flows in the nation, the Salinas River is called "the Upside Down River."   The Salinas River is an integral part of numerous novels written by John Steinbeck and is the subject of a book written by Anne B. Fisher, The Salinas, Upside Down River, (Rivers of America).  The Salinas was originally named Rio Monte Rey (the Mountain King River) in 1776 by Juan Bautista de Anza and later renamed the Salinas River.

* Only the Sacramento, San Joaquin and Klamath River Watersheds are larger than the Salinas River Watershed.

The Salinas River watershed, which includes the Nacimiento River, San Antonio River, Estrella River, and Arroyo Seco River, encompasses approximately 4,780 square miles (from US Geologic Survey, Homer Hamlin). It supplies the water for central coast cities from San Luis 
Obispo to Salinas as well as one of the most productive agricultural valleys in the United States. The Salinas River has been subjected to many changes over the years. The river flows into one of one of the world's most diverse marine ecosystems, Monterey Bay National Marine 
Sanctuary. The Salinas River is designated by the California State Water Resources Control Board as one of the most critical watersheds in California due to degrading habitats, exportation, over-use and non-point pollution impacts on water quality.   

The above is an excerpt from the Santa Lucia Group's "Upside Down River" website.  This website provides a wealth of information about the Salinas River, the lifeblood of San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties on the Central Coast of California.    

Dreaming the Salinas is an innovative and collaborative region-based restoration and conservation initiative to reconcile nature and cultures along the 174-mile Salinas River corridor and the 4200 square mile watershed it serves. The premise is that dreaming the future can create the future, that by asking what success would look like and what are our dreams a transformative process can be launched resulting in envisioning do-able dreams and serve as a tool and template for place-based initiatives elsewhere.  


Salinas River from Hwy. 58 @ Post Mile 5.0          Photo:  Don Lampson


The Upper Salinas River Watershed Action Plan (WAP) is a comprehensive management plan intended to be used by landowners, agencies, and groups in their individual and collective efforts to improve and restore natural resources within the 2000 square mile area of the Upper Salinas Watershed.

The Salinas River Trail Master Plan addresses an approximately 35 mile section of the Salinas River corridor between the communities of Santa Margarita and San Miguel in northern San Luis Obispo County.  This is a designated trail corridor in the County's Parks and Recreation Element that runs the length of the Salinas River in San Luis Obispo county.   

The map below illustrates the path of the Salinas River from the headwaters above Santa Margarita Lake to the Pacific Ocean just north of Monterey.