The Salinas River in Paso Robles: Now You See It
Salinas River Water Began to Rush Toward Me
Would I find the river today? As I walked south in the Salinas riverbed in search of water on January 20, 2012, suddenly the river began rapidly heading toward me in the east channel, closest to Larry Moore Park. The Salinas River lurks beneath the surface most of the year. That’s why I was looking for signs the river was visible again.
Fortunately, I had a camera in my hand. I invite you to share my experience of watching in awe as the river filled and flowed swiftly toward me.
In this post, I hope to show you the river during the season it most often has flowing water. I usually find water in the river between January and April, but only if it has rained a lot. This year we had many days of heavy rain that filled the river in January.
Salinas River: Upside Down and Underground
I first saw the Salinas River when I moved to Templeton, California in 1993. This river, the longest on the California Central Coast, divides the east and west sides of North San Luis Obispo County. To go from one side of town to the other, you need to cross a bridge that goes over the Salinas River. Even though the Salinas River is usually flowing underground and is invisible to people, after heavy rains the riverbed can be full and even dangerous, so bridges are necessary.
Each year I wait eagerly for water to become visible. After each rainstorm, I walk the three blocks from my home to Larry Moore Park to see if the river has returned. That experience of having the river come right to me in 2012 rewarded me for my persistence that year. But the water didn’t stick around very long.
Two Years of Water in Winter
After the riverbed filled in 2012, the visible river stayed around for almost two weeks before it disappeared below the surface. It rained again in January 2013, and I was able to take this photo on January 25.
The next day I took these photos.
Soon the children were playing in the river. By looking at them, you can judge how deep this remnant of the river is.
The last time I saw the river in 2013 was on March 17. It may have been there longer, but I didn’t have a chance to go look for it again that year until it had almost disappeared. On April 20 it was little more than a narrow creek.
I didn’t see the river at all in 2014, but I went to Larry Moore Park, which has the best river access in Paso Robles, several times during the winter. The river remained invisible in 2015. We got some water in the river again in 2016. I posted the March 2016 photos I took to another blog as Short Walk to the River.
The River Showed Itself Again in Paso Robles in January 2017
On January 7, only the westmost channel of the river had water flowing, and that was almost as far north as the Veterans Memorial Bridge that crosses the river on Niblick Road in Paso Robles.
When I returned the next day to see if the water had filled the river yet, I saw more as I followed the River Trail under the Veterans Memorial Bridge. That’s where the water seemed to be.
When I returned on January 9, I found the river full after another heavy rain had fallen.
Salinas River Photos: January 9, 2017
By January 9, in contrast to January 8, the river was full and even overflowing in some spots. This is one of my favorite spots for taking comparison photos. This was taken on January 9. I will show you a contrasting spot taken a couple of weeks later.
Another place where I like to shoot comparison photos is near an access point near a curve in the path at the north end of the park accessed from the northernmost entrance from the Riverbank tract. The path goes north and then turns west by an elderberry tree. This river access point is where the path turns south again. I walked through the official entrance to the river at that point. Below you can see the two paths intersecting by the elderberry tree and lamp post beside it.
A fence like this shows you where to access the river. In fact, a couple of weeks later I returned here after the river was down, and someone left their boots there before walking to the riverbed barefoot.
The place I like to photograph the river for comparison is beside this inlet. On January 9 it is full of water.You can see the Veterans Memorial Bridge crossing the river in the background. Note the coyote brush plant in bloom on the left. I’ll show you a comparison shot taken two weeks later, below.
Comparison Photos to Photo Above from 1-27-17
If you compare this to the photo above, you can clearly see how much the water level in the river has subsided. The distance between the flowing river and the sandbar is in contrast to the previous photo where the river flowed right up to and around the sandbar. The river no longer flows into the inlet on the bottom, but you can see by the mud that it was there. Take note of the position of the rocks on the north side of the inlet to compare to other photos.
This photo focuses in the inlet itself. It was full of water. Now only mud and footprints remain to show that it was wet.
In this next photo, we look north up the river toward the bridge from the edge of the inlet. Notice how narrow the river has become in just 18 days without daily rain.
Contrast the photo above with the one below taken on January 9 from a few feet behind where the January 27 photo was taken.
There are many other photos I have in my files of the full Salinas River I don’t have room to show you here. You can find many of them posted on my blog, Paso Robles in Photos. Here’s a link to those posts dealing with the Salinas River, wet and dry.
Bring the Salinas River Views into Your Home or Office
Poster: Bench Looking Toward Salinas River PosterSalinas River Flowing through Paso Robles, CA Canvas PrintSalinas River North of Veterans Memorial Bridge Wood PrintPoster: Path to the Salinas River in March PosterSalinas River North of Veterans Memorial Bridge Ceramic TileiPad Case: Inspirational with Salinas River iPad Mini CoverSalinas River North of Veterans Memorial Bridge PostcardSalinas River, Paso Robles, January CoasterSalinas River North of Veterans Memorial Bridge NotebookPOSTCARD: Salinas River Flowing in Paso Robles PostcardSalinas River North of Veterans Memorial Bridge Round Clock
Views of the Salinas River in Templeton
Accessing the Salinas River in Templeton isn’t as easy as accessing it in Paso Robles. However, I like to keep track of when it’s flowing. I have written a blog post, Salinas River Photos from Vineyard Bridge in Templeton, with comparison photos taken from the same spots in July 2016, when the river was low, and January 2017 after the rain. The Salinas River passing through Templeton had water in July, whereas in Paso Robles the river was invisible and appeared dry from the riverbed.
I created a greeting card at Zazzle featuring one of my photos of the view from the Vineyard Bridge looking south. You can use it to share your love of the Salinas River with your friends who haven’t seen it. The inside of the card is blank for your own message, so it’s ideal for any occasion or for just keeping in touch. You can also remove or add text to the inside of the card. I simply identified the scene.
The Time Is Right
What are you waiting for? Pack up a lunch, grab your camera and your family, and head for Larry Moore Park. Leave your car parked on Riverbank Lane near any path into the park and take that path toward the Salinas River. There are plenty of benches near the river if some adults want to rest while the younger folks go explore. One can walk along the river from Larry Moore Park all the way up to 13th Street. One can even get off the trail on Niblick Road by Wendy’s and walk onto the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge for a look at the river from above. Wherever you want to access the Salinas River Trail, don’t wait. If you delay, the river may disappear again before you get there.
If you have a travel-related blog, join one of these link parties. Connect with other travel bloggers.
19 thoughts on “The Salinas River in Paso Robles: Now You See It”
It’s fascinating to see pictures of a river that is ‘there’ just sometimes! With all the rain California has (finally) had this winter, it looks as though the Salinas River will be above ground for awhile. Wonderful photos.
I’m hoping it will stick around until April, but it might not. It’s still going strong now, but the level had gotten lower yesterday. We should get more rain late next week.
I love watching water … how it comes and goes. I have a favorite spot on the reservoir to sit and compare water levels. I enjoy your tours of the Paso Robles area.
Being at the same spot in comparative photos is important. I’m glad you enjoy the tours.
Wow very interesting!
That’s very interesting watching the river fill. I am happy to hear that you are getting rain as it seems Californa is in a perpetual drought. On the south island of New Zealand, there are bridges over wide river beds that are either dry or running in a very narrow gulley to the ocean. When the rains come or the snow melts in the coastal mountains, these river-beds fill up and can sweep you away.
It sounds like a very similar situation. Waiting each year for the river to return gives me a sense of anticipation.
I’m stopping by from Janice’s and found this so interesting. How fascinating that it shows up like this! It’s funny every January I wait for the seagulls to appear on our lake by our house. Every year they come in January and stay until the beginning of March. You don’t see them again until the next year. I living in the northern part of SC close to NC and GA. It’s funny how we find different things to measure time and seasons. I really enjoyed this!
Here on the California coast, the seagulls are always with us. I enjoy watching their antics. I really miss the river in the years we don’t see it. I hope we’ll keep getting enough rain so that the river is visible every year.
I had just finished reading John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” last week. How timely is this?!? Thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration, see you next week!
This part of the Salinas River is not in the Salinas Valley, but in Paso Robles a county south of Monterey County. The river begins in our county and ends north of Salinas.
Oh wow that is a really impressive river. It was so strange to actually watch it fill up!
It was awesome when I saw it.
Interesting to watch your river. Isn’t nature amazing? To think that God planned all that! We have what we call a “seasonal creek” which is really just a rain drain-off ditch that flows down our neighborhood and through our sloped property. We’ve been in a drought situation since early last summer and finally, just recently and now again today, we have water flowing in the creek. It isn’t deep enough for Daisy to swim yet (and it’s never very wide so really she just wades) but we’re certainly hoping that now that we finally have a late winter rain, we’ll get enough over the next few weeks to alleviate the drought. Between the dry conditions and some very windy days we’ve been in a high fire danger situation for weeks. Love your pictures, Barb!
It sounds like you have similar conditions to us. I think our river will be no more than a puddle in another week, if not sooner.
I love the anticipation of the arrival of beauty and interest! I can just imagine you “watching” for the river to show itself. You photos make it look like such a beautiful place to rest and photograph.
I’m really thankful that no matter which house I’m at, I have beautiful scenery within a few minutes away. The river is really close to our Paso Robles home — within easy walking distance. The Templeton property is in the middle of wine country.
What an amazing sight that has to be! With its annual ebb and flow, the river has a life of its own. 🙂
Yes, it does. I’m happy to be living near a river even though it’s dry most of the year. Most of my life I didn’t even see a real river.