Carmel - Los Padres Reservoir to Carmel Valley

Carmel, California, US


Los Padres Reservoir to Carmel Valley

Usual Difficulty II-III(IV) (for normal flows)
Length 10 Miles
Avg. Gradient 60 fpm

Carmel River

Carmel River
Photo of Bob lifting off

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-11143200 250 - 750 cfs II-III(IV) 01h03m 512 cfs (running)

River Description

Put in:  Cachagua County Park is near the base of Los Padres Dam.  


Other Information Sources:
Bill Tuthill's California Creekin
Carmel River Watershed Conservancy
Carmel River Steelhead Association

Loma Prieta Paddlers  club is centered in the San Jose area, but they have members in the Santa Cruz and Monterey/Carmel area. 

Water Rights and Water Use of Carmel River:  
California American Water owns the main water rights to the Carmel River and they own Los Padres reservoir and San Clemente reservoir.    They are a wholly owned subsidiary of American Water, which is the largest private water company in the USA.   They are listed on the New York Stock Exchange. 


CalAmWater gets water from the river, by diverting some at San Clemente Dam, but mostly by pumping water from 21 wells along side the river.


A State Water Resources Control Board, order to stop unauthorized, excess pumping in 2008.pdf contains some background information about CalAmWater rights to Carmel river water.  
"5. On July 6, 1995, the State Water Board also adopted Order WR 95-10 regarding four complaints
filed against Cal-Am. The Order required Cal-Am to terminate unlawful diversions from the
Carmel River and to comply with specified conditions. The State Water Board found that Cal-Am
has legal rights to divert 3,376 afa of water from the Carmel River, after taking into consideration
the reduced capacity of Los Padres Reservoir due to sedimentation. (Order 95-10, p. 25.)
Cal-Am’s rights to divert 3,376 afa from the Carmel River consist of 1,137 afa of pre-1914
appropriative + 60 afa of riparian + 2,179 afa under License 11866 (Application 11674A).
6. Order 95-10 and D-1632 were both later amended by Orders 98-04 and 2002-02 to allow:
1) direct diversion and diversion to storage throughout the year from the Carmel River at times
when flows were physically available over and above fish flow requirements; 2) that the total
quantity of water originating in the Carmel River diverted to beneficial use by Cal-Am and
MPWMD could not exceed 16,000 af; and 3) that Cal-Am would cease withdrawals of water from
the San Clemente Dam and reduce diversions from production well facilities located in Subunit 2
of the Carmel River during low flow periods of the year, except during an emergency. The 16,000
af identified by Order 98-04 includes rights established by License 11866, Permit 7130B,
Application 27614, Application 30215, pre-1914 appropriative and riparian rights.
7. In 1995, Cal-Am was diverting about 14,106 afa of water from the Carmel River to supply water to
approximately 100,000 people in the greater Monterey Peninsula area. (Order 95-10, p. 1)
8. In Order WR 95-10, the State Water Board found that Cal-Am’s diversions were having an
adverse effect on: (a) the riparian corridor downstream of river mile 18.5; (b) wildlife dependent
upon the corridor; and (c) steelhead and other fish that inhabited the river. (Order WR 95-10,
pp. 25-8, 33-34.) There continues to be an annual drawdown or drying of the Carmel River in the
area upstream of the Highway 1 bridge. Because Cal-Am is the largest diverter of water on the
river, this drawdown of the river is attributable, at least in part, to Cal-Am’s illegal diversions from
the Carmel River. Cal-Am’s pumping from the subterranean stream contributes to the reduction of
surface flow. This reduction of flows creates segregated small pools of water that trap and strand
steelhead and other fish which inhabit the river. The potential for substantially higher steelhead
mortality is mitigated by volunteers from the local community who make two sweeps of the river
annually to rescue stranded steelhead. Nevertheless, there are adverse effects on steelhead and
other fish caused by the river drawdown."


Monterey's Coastal Water Project Details the ideas for supplying water to the Monterey peninsula while complying with the State Water Board orders listed above.  

San Clemente Dam Removal:
  Appearantly this dam need extensive upgrades to meet earthquake safety standards which could cost in the range of 55 million dollars.   There are serious discussions and efforts aimed at removing the dam instead, costing around 100 million dollars.  
Information from Ventura River Ecosystems.

San Clemente Dam Removal project description - California State ..

San Clemente Dam Draft EIR/EIS

San Clemente Dam Removal project description - California State

San Clemente Dam Removal


The Carmel River Dam and Reservoir Project has been proposed and studied since the mid 1990's.    Don't know the status and progress of this proposal.

Fall 2008 Stage-Volume Relationship for Los Padres Reservoir, Carmel River, California .pdf

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2010-02-09 08:45:09

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
February 28 2005 (5075 days ago)
zeek liebyDetails
Last weekend 2-21-05 a hard sheller died on this stretch I do not know the details I read the
article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel. He was with three other boaters and the river was pretty high
and rising.