San Lorenzo, California, US
Felton (Henry Crowell State Park Bridge) to Ocean at Santa Cruz
||III-IV (for normal flows)
The San Lorenzo is a pretty and very accessible river. While runnable for most of it's length, the
three mile stretch from a mile downstream of the bridge into Henry Cowell State Park, to the
takeout just north of the where Highway 9 crosses the train tracks, contains the most gradient.
From the Henry Cowell bridge, the first mile is primarily riffles and bushes, with little
difficulty. Soon after losing sight of houses and trail access on river left, the gradient picks
up. There is an alternate put-in here on river right, with access available from a large unmarked
pull-out of concrete, and a steep trail down to the river.
From here, you cannot see or hear the road or any houses until you get down to Paradise Park, a
mile or two up from the city of Santa Cruz. It's a narrow, redwood canyon with steep rock walls in
some places to give a gorge feeling. The core three mile section has constant rapids with only
small pools separating them. The size of the rapids increases, each bigger than the last, until you
reach the falls, the largest drop.
An alternative put-in is available about 1-1.5 miles downstream of the Henry Cowell bridge,
allowing you to avoid the flat moving water. Look for a large pull-out where a steep bike trail
drops down to the road opposite the river. A steep trail drops straight down to the train tracks,
and another trail to your right heads down to the river.
The December storms (2002) changed several rapids, most significantly the largest drop.
The first couple rapids are small and easily boat scouted. A moderately good play hole is on the
right at the third ledge where the river is split.
Several more small rapids offer nice slalom practice, rock spins, and the occaisional boof. Always
watch for wood.
After a few S-turns, the river passes through a narrow channel that forms an excellent hole for
endless left-handed cartwheels from 140-250 cfs, and nice splatwheels down the side.
Up next is the second largest rapid, with several shoots at the bottom, all of which can be
Around the corner is the biggest drop. Scout (and carry) on the left. At flows up to 400 cfs, there
is one channel down the middle, after an approach rapid. This used to form a boof, but the boof
rock is gone, leaving a slot-drop that could provide some pin opportunities. The second drop has
new rocks in it, so carefully choose the middle or right slots.
Above 500 cfs, a nice route down the right side opens up, and the hole on the bottom left gets
worse. Above 800 you can sneak down the left, and above 1200 you can boof the large rock in the
middle. Don't forget to look around at the steep rock formations as you pass through this steepest
part of the gorge.
The next several rapids are fun, including a long slalom course with several routes, right being
best at low water. The eddylines are excellent down here.
The river splits to go around a very short, narrow island, with most of the water going right. Soon
after, the river makes a larger split. The left is normally log-choked, and half-way down the
right, a trail meets the river. This is an alternative take-out to cut the bottom 3 miles off of
the run. The trail leads up to the large parking area just north of Highway 9 crossing the train
The lower section contains more flat water and a few challenging 2+ rapids. Here the river moves
quite far away from the road, providing the best wilderness atmosphere of the run. Watch for logs
occaisionally blocking the entire channel.
As a note, fishermen can be very dense on this run (in both ways.) Catch and release is allowed
only on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays. Try to avoid the mornings on those days,
because some can be quite defensive. Be very respectful, making as little movement as possible as
passing by their spot, and possibly ask them where they would like you to pass.
Other Information Sources:
This run is also described in Cassady & Calhoun, Holbek & Stanley, Schwind
San Lorenzo Valley
Water quality weekly report.
Lorenzo Urban River Plan
2003 pdf document
StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2003-01-31 13:06:55