Difficulty IV(V)
Length 3 Miles
Flow Range 200 - 500 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 0 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 07/07/2020 11:19 pm

River Description

The Arroyo Seco drains west out of the Santa Lucia mountains and Ventana Wilderness into the Salinas River at Greenfield.   This section is known for its very pretty gorge and for the 3 mile hike required to get from the take out to the put in. 

Season:  Winter and spring rainstorms can bring flows up into the thousands of cfs, but as soon as the rain stops, flows drop quickly. The boating window can be from a day or two up to a week.  During periods of steady or frequent rains, flows can remain at boatable levels for longer periods. 

Christina Starr contributes:
"Arroyo Seco is one of the top class IV runs in California. Do not bother with the brushy lower sections. All the action is in the Gorge above the picnic area.
To reach the put-in, park at the upper parking lot and carry your boat around the locked gate across the dirt road. It is about a three-mile hike; not too bad, though. Put in at the Willow Creek packbridge.
The first two miles are class IV with one class V. You can scout the major rapids from river left, right after Santa Lucia Creek enters from the right.
First two miles are in a spectacular gorge and the rapids are mostly class III-IV with one class V: "MUCHOS CAJONES." "

Other boaters report that the lower sections are very scenic and worthwhile despite brush in some areas. 

Other Information Sources:  

Los Padres National Forest:  Monterey Ranger District (King City, 831-385-5434)   Campground Kiosk: 831-674-5726
CA-Creeks-Arroyo Seco  Online guidebook





Rapid Descriptions


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Mareike Delley
1 year ago

I changed the flow range from 8-9 feet to 4-6 feet according to the comment from cacreeks.com http://cacreeks.com/aro-seco.htm and after our visit at 8 feet in February 2019, where we had a raging high river (around 1500 cfs). Apparently, after the floods in 2017, the gauge changed. Just that you don't wonder about the different information in the text and in the table.

default user thumbnail
11 years ago

This run is very fun, especially since there is no shuttle. I do however, enjoy hiking into runs. This rock is incredible and the rapids are fun. *NOTE. Muchos Cajones is easily run with speed and a strong boof. I have heard of people messing it up and flushing right away. I almost drowned here. I was getting the beatdown in my boat before I pulled, expecting to flush. Instead, I was recirced underwater for a very long time. I truly thought I might drown and I tried everything I knew to get out of there. Finally I did flush and there was a big chill pool below. My boat was stuck in an eddy upstream and would have been very difficult to get without someone still up there. Climbing back is not really an option as it is cliffed out. Have fun but be careful. Jeremy L

Gage Descriptions

The Greenfield gauge only gives stage in feet, but it is at the take out so it should be more responsive.  In the past 7.5 seemed to be a good lowest level reading, but the gauge seems to change periodically.  Now, 4  to 6 feet seems to be an optimal boatable range. This is based on only a few reports. The listed boating range is just a guess, so use your good judgement when you look at the river. 

The USGS gauge near Soledad is 14 miles dowstream of the take out and will be much slower to respond.   The best range for the narrow gorge is reported to be from about 200 cfs up to 500 cfs.   The river below the gorge can be run at much higher flows.

Christina Starr contributes:
If the flows are too high, you can hike in only one and a half miles and run two miles of class-III rapids which rocks at high flows!


Flows tend to spike up very high during rain storms then rapidly drop back down over a few days time. 

Maximum discharge calculated by the USGS: 28,300 ft3/s, Apr. 3, 1958

Directions Description


No Accident Reports





Mareike Delley


Paul Martzen


Mark Buckley


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1211254 02/19/19 Mareike Delley updated name
1215429 07/07/20 Paul Martzen updated description
1215430 07/07/20 Paul Martzen updated image position
1196854 12/09/09 Paul Martzen removed outdated closure info, minor additions
1196901 12/14/09 Paul Martzen
1196866 12/11/09 Paul Martzen
1196923 12/19/09 Paul Martzen
1201632 10/29/12 Paul Martzen changed gauge levels
1211136 02/13/19 Paul Martzen updated image position
1193438 02/20/09 Mark Buckley n/a