Help Us Preserve the Precious Rivers
of the Big Sur Coast
The northern Santa Lucia Mountains in Monterey County rise 6,000 feet from the Pacific Ocean, creating the scenic Big Sur Coast region in Monterey County. The steep flanks of the mountains have been carved into spectacular canyons by many rivers and streams. The public lands along these rivers are rich in cultural and historical values and provide outstanding outdoor recreation destinations, essential habitat for fish and wildlife, and important research opportunities.
In recognition of these outstanding rivers, Representative Sam Farr introduced H.R. 4040 in 2009, a bill to protect more than 91 miles of Wild & Scenic Rivers in the Big Sur region, including segments of the Arroyo Seco River and its tributaries, San Antonio River and its tributaries, Carmel River, Big Creek, and San Carpoforo Creek. The bill also establishes the northern Los Padres National Forest as the Big Sur Management Unit, to encourage more investment by the Forest Service in the management of this ecological rich area. In addition, the bill makes adjustments to the boundaries of the existing Ventana and Silver Peak Wilderness areas (with a net increase in acreage), and establishes the Arroyo Seco-Indians National Recreation Trail along the Arroyo Seco River and the Jeff Norman Botanical Area. Friends of the River was instrumental in including these rivers in the bill and we will continue to work with our allies to develop public support and lobby Congress to ultimately secure its passage.
TAKE ACTION: Write a letter to Rep. Farr urging him to reintroduce his bill to protect more than 90 miles of Wild & Scenic rivers on public lands in the Big Sur region. Click here to take action.
Wild & Scenic Rivers Proposed for Protection by Rep. Farr
Learn about the rivers and why they are valuable, discover which segments of the rivers are proposed for Wild & Scenic protection, and look at maps of the rivers.
Arroyo Seco River and Tributaries
The Arroyo Seco River flows through a series of deep rocky gorges, representing a unique cross-section of Coast Range geology, and attracting more than 35,000 campers, swimmers, anglers, and hikes every year. The river is an essential migration link for Central Coast steelhead, which return to the stream from the Pacific Ocean to spawn. The river also supports numerous other sensitive, threatened, and endangered wildlife, including the California condor and foothill yellow-legged frog. Two Arroyo Seco tributaries are included Tassajara and Church Creek. In addition to supporting steelhead that migrate up the Arroyo Seco River, Tassajara Creek is probably best known for its hot springs, which has been a sacred site to the Esselen Tribe for thousands of years. Today, the hot springs are home to the Tassajara Zen Center, which has carried on a thousand year tradition of monastic zen training. Chuch Creek is the location of “Hands” Cave, an ancient pictograph site made famous by Robinson Jeffer’s poem. Altogether, about 19 miles of the Arroyo Seco River, 11 miles of Tassajara Creek, and 4.5 miles of Church Creek would be protected by HR 4040. The bill also establishes the Arroyo Seco-Indians National Recreation Trail, which parallels much of the Arroyo Seco River. Learn more about this river >
The Carmel River is one of the most popular trail routes into the Ventana Wilderness. Distinctive sandstone formations along the river, spectacular tributary waterfalls, and its lush riparian habitat and woodlands beckon to hikers, backpackers, and anglers. The river also supports Central Coast steelhead, red-legged frogs, and rare groves of Santa Lucia fir. HR 4040 proposes Wild & Scenic River protection for about 11 miles of the Carmel River. Learn more about this river >
Big Creek and Tributaries
Big Creek represents a rare opportunity to protect an entire watershed from its source to the sea. The University of California’s Big Creek Reserve and the Big Creek Marine Reserve just off shore provide unique research into the biological connection between a small coastal watershed and the Pacific Ocean. The creek supports more than 344 species of plants representing nearly half of all California plant families, as well as Central Coast steelhead. HR 4040 proposes Wild & Scenic River protection for more 23 miles of Big Creek and its tributaries, including Devil’s Canyon Creek. Learn more about this river >
San Antonio River and Tributaries
The San Antonio River and its tributaries flow through a scenic area of valley oak woodlands, meadows, and fantastic sandstone formations unusually rich in Native American culture and early California history. Numerous grinding holes along the river provide a record of the Salinan people, who lived for thousands of years along its banks. The Mission San Antonio de Padua was built on the river by Spanish explorers and priests in 1772. A historic adobe ranch house reflects the post-mission history of the Salinans and rancheros, who grew small gardens along the river. HR 4040 proposes Wild & Scenic River protection for more than 21 miles of the San Antonio River and its tributaries. Learn more about this river >
San Carpoforo Creek
San Carpoforo Creek is one of the most important Central Coast steelhead spawning streams in San Luis Obispo County. The stream drains an area of high ecological significance that also supports the threatened and endangered foothill yellow-legged frog and California red-legged frog. The creek was the route of the historic Portola Expedition of 1769, which led to the establishment of the California missions and began the European colonization of California. HR 4040 proposes Wild & Scenic River protection for a mile of San Carpoforo Creek as it forms an estuary that connects with the Pacific Ocean. Learn more about this river >
So what does Wild & Scenic mean anyway? Check our Wild & Scenic FAQ.
Big Sur Coast
(916) 442-3155 ext. 221
Ventana Wilderness Alliance
Sierra Club Ventana Chapter
Los Padres Forest Watch
Northern California Federation Fly Fishermen
Carmel Valley Association
Carmel River Steelhead Association
The Wilderness Society
Santa Cruz Fly Fishermen
Friends of the Sea Otter
Save Our Shores
California Wilderness Coalition
Planning & Conservation League
San Andreas Land Conservancy
Salinas Nation Cultural Preservation Society
El Paso de Robles Area Historical Society
Tassajara Zen Center