River Facts

1. The San Lorenzo River is 29 miles long.

2. The San Lorenzo River watershed is 137 square miles and includes the cities of Santa Cruz, Boulder Creek, Ben Lomond, Felton and Scotts Valley.

3. Nine principle tributaries flow into the San Lorenzo River.

4. The river played prominent roles in all three industries that shaped Santa Cruz’s history: lime, leather and lumber.

5. The headwaters of the San Lorenzo River start near Castle Rock State Park at an elevation of 2,500 feet.

6. The San Lorenzo River was once one of the most popular rivers in the state to fish for steelhead trout and coho salmon.

7. The San Lorenzo River and Valley were named in 1769 by the Portola expedition.

8. There are approximately 122 bird species that rely on the lower San Lorenzo River for foraging, roosting and nesting.

9. Pacific Lamprey are native to the San Lorenzo River.

10. The first mission along the San Lorenzo River was established in 1791.

11. After the devastating Christmas Flood of 1955, levees were built along the lower San Lorenzo River to prevent downtown Santa Cruz from flooding.

12. Annual rainfall varies between 15 inches to more than 100 inches throughout the San Lorenzo River watershed, depending upon location and year.

13. The San Lorenzo River is home to endangered species of fish like coho salmon and tidewater goby.

14. Nearly 100,000 people rely on the San Lorenzo River for the majority of their drinking water.

15. The San Lorenzo River provides approximately half of the drinking water supply for Santa Cruz. Including Loch Lomond, a reservoir on a tributary to the San Lorenzo River, two thirds of the drinking water comes from the San Lorenzo River watershed.

16. The Santa Cruz Riverwalk is the City’s longest park.

17. Tidal influence brings salt water up the river as far as the Water Street Bridge.

18. The San Lorenzo River was once the focal point of Santa Cruz. Even the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk first started as bath houses along the river. Today, buildings face away from the river, but in 2017, the City of Santa Cruz and California Coastal Commission approved the creation of Front Street properties that face the Riverwalk.

19. Paddling a canoe, kayak or stand up paddling is illegal along the lower SLR.

20. The levees were built using fill from the development of the Safeway grocery store in Watsonville.

21. The Riverwalk includes a 5-mile loop with distance markers for bikers and joggers, along with multiple areas with exercise equipment.