Hot Spot

Arroyo Seco Gorge 2019

Greenfield, CA

The Arroyo Seco is a free flowing mountain river, with headwaters originating above 4,000 feet in the Santa Lucia Mountains in central California. The Arroyo Seco Recreation Area includes a developed campground, a day use picnic area, and day and overnight parking for those hiking into the Arroyo Seco Gorge. Fall through spring, the area’s primary users are hikers and backpackers who begin their trips at the base of the Gorge. During the hot summer months, most visitors are frontcountry campers and picnickers using the day use area. Recently, however, land managers have found that more visitors are hiking into the Gorge to access the river, using trails that originate from the Arroyo Seco/Indians Road (closed to vehicles). Most visitors hike in to float in the Gorge’s deep pools, then return on foot, but some will follow the river up or downstream for several miles, where light canyoneering is possible. However, there is a cost to the river’s popularity. In the day use area, broken glass, left-behind food, abandoned gear and other trash are common. Water quality surveys have not been conducted immediately downstream of the Recreation Area, but between shoreline erosion and the volume of visitors (500+ per day on busy weekends), it is possible that water quality in the river is suffering. Upriver from the day use area, trash, toilet paper, illegal campfires, vegetation damage (carving and cutting of trees), and abandoned items are common impacts. From Arroyo Seco/Indians Road, river access is difficult, as the canyon walls are extremely steep. The trek can take longer than anticipated, and visitors to the Gorge often abandon gear and leave trash.



  • 210 People Educated
  • 192 Volunteer Hours Facilitated
  • 415 Pounds of Trash Removed

Through a highly collaborative planning and activation process, we completed eight educational and community building programs on-site and in the communities surrounding the Arroyo Seco Gorge.  Strengthening the stewardship community through these collaborative efforts will prove to be extremely valuable moving forward when it comes to cohesive messaging and educational opportunities for such a unique recreational area.  We have recommended increasing training opportunities for agency staff, as well as relevant stakeholders, volunteers, and the general public when possible.  Furthermore, guidance on improved signage paired with specific alterations to infrastructure were conveyed in order to provide passive education and improved opportunities for visitors to take on a better stewardship role.

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