Santa Rosa and San Simeon Creeks

coastal creeks


Cambria relies on two major watersheds for water—Santa Rosa Creek and San Simeon Creek. The health of both are impacted by development, water extraction, ranching and farming and management practices. Greenspace has been the advocate for watershed planning on both San Simeon and Santa Rosa Creeks. Two watershed documents have been successfully written through intense public processes– the lower Santa Rosa Creek Enhancement Plan – 1993 and The Santa Rosa Creek Watershed Management Plan completed in 2011. Greenspace administered the development and managed the funds awarded to it by the California Coastal Conservancy and the California Department of Fish and Game respectively.  Greenspace continues to advocate for future  San Simeon Creek watershed planning which requires cooperation among allstakeholders and agencies, in order to protect the habitat and lagoon. 

San Simeon and Santa Rosa Creeks provide habitat for numerous federally listed threatened or endangered species such as the tidewater goby, steelhead trout,  pacific pond turtle, and the California Redlegged Frog. The steelhead fishery, once was noted as the best steelhead fishery south of San Francisco, has declined dramatically over the last few decades. Greenspace supported the designation of San Simeon and Santa Rosa Creeks as Core 1 habitat for recovery under the National Marine Fisheries Service Steelhead Recovery Plan and continues to advocate for policies that maintain high quality habitat to support these species.

Greenspace has a 25 year long history of working side-by-side with the Department of Fish and Game and with land owners to conduct fishery restoration projects in the watershed. Barrier removals, stream bank restoration projects, watershed planning, and purchasing of floodplains and other key properties have been priority projects of Greenspace. Overall, the recovery of a keystone species like the steelhead trout as a viable fishery will enable other species to flourish and maintain their stature in the watershed.

Santa Rosa Creek

The Santa Rosa Creek watershed is 48 square miles. Santa Rosa Creek flows 16 miles from its headwaters to the Pacific Ocean and Perry Creek is the largest tributary. The elevation rises from sea level at the mouth of Santa Rosa Creek to 2,933 feet at Cypress Mountain near the headwaters. Greenspace identified key parcels to purchase in order to protect the remaining floodplains in the lower reach of the watershed and happily nearly all have been purchased for conservation. We think that coupled with floodplain protection and storm water management flooding in developed low lying areas of Cambria will become less damaging. 

Santa Rosa Creek Enhancement Plan

To be most effective, conservation efforts must understand the big picture—the interaction and interdependency of natural and human systems over time. With this in mind, in 1992 Greenspace commissioned a long-range, comprehensive study of aquatic and riparian ecosystems in Santa Rosa Creek and its lagoon since 1970. The consultants determined that the decline has resulted from "increased human population, increased groundwater pumping, increased non-point source pollution and a natural drought cycle.”  The Enhancement Plan has four goals:

1. Acquire and preserve open space along the creek.

2. Enhance the natural resources of its lower reach.

3. Develop and maintain an information base for the creek.

4. Increase community awareness and enjoyment of the creek.

Documents and Resources

Learn more about the broader Santa Rosa Creek Watershed Management Plan and the Santa Rosa Enhancement Creek Plan by clicking on the button below. There you will find additional resources that describe the natural history of the area, as well as specifics about stream flows. 

To learn more about the amazing amount of wildlife that depends on the coastal creeks, please look in the material available below in the downloads section.