The Carmel River is one of the most popular trail routes into the Ventana Wilderness. The river flows northwest out of the Los Padres National Forest and eventually to the Pacific Ocean. The portion of the Carmel River and much of the Miller Fork considered for Wild & Scenic status are located entirely within the Ventana Wilderness. The Forest Service did not find the Carmel River and the Miller Fork to be eligible for federal protection, due to supposed lack of outstanding values. However, the agency’s own study confirms outstanding values.
Scenery & Recreation Distinctive sandstone formations along the river, spectacular tributary waterfalls, house size boulders, deep rocky gorges, and lush riparian habitat and woodlands, complete with six foot tall ferns, all contribute to the river’s outstanding scenery and diverse recreational opportunities. The rivers offer one of the most popular trail routes into the Ventana Wilderness. According to the Forest Service, the river is unique to Southern California, due to its diverse recreation uses, including backpacking, horsepacking, fishing, bird watching, scenery viewing, camping, swimming, nature study, and photography.
Wildlife The Carmel River and its riparian habitat supports nesting spotted owls, endangered California red-legged frogs, a remnant population of threatened steelhead, and sensitive Southwestern pond turtles.
Cultural Esselen Indian archeological sites along the upper Carmel River provide unique evidence of their conflict with Spanish missionaries and the armed Spanish garrison, late in the contact period and just prior to the demise of the Esselen people.
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