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Arroyo Seco River

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The relatively little known Arroyo Seco River drains the eastside of the Ventana Mountains in California's scenic central Coast Range. The Arroyo Seco is one of the few tributaries of the Salinas River that sustains a small population of the threatened steelhead trout, a federally protected species that migrates all the way from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in the clean riffles and deep cold pools of the river. In recognition of this outstanding fishery, as well as its obvious scenic and recreational values, the Arroyo Seco River and its tributary, Tassajara Creek, have been determined eligible for National Wild & Scenic River status by the Forest Service.

Much of the river flows through an unprotected corridor between two separate units of the Ventana Wilderness. Several trailheads are located on the river, providing access to popular hiking trails leading into the Wilderness. The river corridor also includes the narrow and rugged Arroyo Seco-Indians road, which was closed by landslides during the 1997 flood and has yet to be rebuilt.

The lower Arroyo Seco River hosts a popular campground and picnic site known as "The Lakes." Here, the river flows through solid bedrock smoothed by water, tumbling over numerous cascades, and forming deep pools that invite swimming. Nearby trailheads lead up several tributary canyons, including Tassajara Creek, Rocky Creek, and Santa Lucia Creek.

The upper Arroyo Seco River also has two popular campgrounds that can be used as base camps to explore the river's source and several tributaries in the Ventana Wilderness. A hike along the upper Arroyo Seco Trail takes you past a spectacular sandstone formation known as "The Rocks" and up a scenic canyon with several cascades and pools. The best time for hikers to visit the Arroyo Seco River is in the Spring or Fall. Summer visits should focus on the river's numerous swimming holes.

Downstream of the National Forest boundary, the Arroyo Seco River flows through a gravelly floodplain that supports one of the largest native sycamore forests in central California. Unfortunately, this privately-owned section of the river is threatened by illegal and environmentally destructive gravel mining.

How To Get There
Arroyo Seco Locator MapThe lower Arroyo Seco River can be accessed via Highway 101 and County Road G16 (from the small town of Greenfield). The upper Arroyo Seco River is accessible from Highway 101 via County Road G18 and Forest Road 4050 through Fort Hunter-Liggett. Maps of this portion of the Los Padres National Forest and general visitor information are available from the U.S. Forest Service Ranger Station in King City, (831) 385-5434. A useful guide to the many trails in the Arroyo Seco River region can be found in Hiking the Big Sur Country: The Ventana Wilderness by Jeffrey P. Schaffer, Wilderness Press.

Recreation And Visitor Information
Maps of this portion of the Los Padres National Forest and general visitor information are available from the U.S. Forest Service Ranger Station in King City, (831) 385-5434. A useful guide to the many trails in the Arroyo Seco River region can be found in Hiking the Big Sur Country: The Ventana Wilderness by Jeffrey P. Schaffer, Wilderness Press.

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