Salinas River

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The Salinas River is the largest river system in California's Central Coast Region [1] and is the largest of the three rivers that flow into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary [2]. The Salinas River drains a watershed that covers an area of approximately 11000 km 2 and extends for about 240 km [3]. It flows from the La Panza Range in San Luis Obispo County to the Monterey Bay in Monterey County. The Salinas River flows north-west, mostly within a through defined by the Sierra de Salinas in the southwest and the Gabilan Range in the northeast [3] .

The main tributaries of the Salinas River are the Nacimiento, San Antonio, Arroyo Seco, San Lorenzo, and Estrella Rivers. The Salinas River watershed has three large dams in its upper portion: The Salinas Dam, built in the 1940's; the Nacimiento Dam, built in the 1950's; and the San Antonio Dam, built in the 1960's. The Salinas Dam is managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Nacimiento and San Antonio Dams are managed by the Monterey County Water Resources Agency.

The Lower portion of the Salinas River is often referred to as the Lower Salinas River. The division of the river and its watershed in upper and lower portions is for administrative purposes only.

The Salinas River drains to both the Salinas River Lagoon and the Moss Landing Harbor in the center of the Monterey Bay.


  1. Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Conservation District. 2002. Watershed Fisheries Report and Early Actions. A Study of the Upper Salinas River and Tributaries.
  2. Anderson BS, Hunt JW, Phillips BM, Nicely PA, de Vlaming V, Connor V, Richard N, Tjeerdema RS. 2003. Integrated assesment of the impacts of agricultural drainwater in the Salinas River (California, USA). Environmental Pollution 124:523-532.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Farnsworth KL, Milliman JD. 2003. Effects of climatic and anthropogenic change on small mountainous rivers: the Salinas River example. Global and Planetary Change 39: 53-64.



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