Sespe Creek Wild & Scenic River

Fact Sheet: Sespe Creek Wild & Scenic River

Sespe Creek was added to the federal system by Congress in 1992, as part of the Los Padres Condor Range and Rivers Act, which protected 84 miles of wild and scenic rivers and more than 400,000 acres of wilderness in California’s iconic central coast region. It represents the first stream protected by Congress that includes seasonally flowing segments.

Flowing east and south through the Topa-Topa Mountains and the Sespe Wilderness, the creek possesses outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreation, fish, wildlife, and geological values. Flowing through tremendously diverse scenery, the creek is defined by narrow rocky gorges with cascades and deep pools, broad rolling hills, and wide floodplains with oxbow turns. Sespe Creek flows past the impressive Piedra Blanca sandstone formation. The creek’s rich riparian habitat contrasts sharply with the semi-arid landscape. The diverse habitat supports several sensitive, threatened, and endangered wildlife species, including arroyo toad and the California condor. The endangered southern steelhead migrates from the Pacific Ocean, up the Santa Clara River, and into Sespe Creek to spawn.

The entire stream offers excellent and diverse opportunities for recreation. The upper segment is accessible via scenic Highway 33, which provides trailheads to the Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail and other wilderness routes. The lower segment of the creek is nearly trail-less. Visitors who want to explore this segment scramble through its deep boulder-choked canyon, wade the shallows, and swim across its deep pools.

CalWild and its allies have sponsored legislation to add to the federal system portions of the creek upstream and downstream of the existing Wild & Scenic River, as part of the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act.

Quick Facts

  • Designated Segment 31.5 miles
  • Management Agency: Forest Service, Los Padres National Forest
  • Local Conservation Stewards: Keep Sespe Wild
  • Federal WSR Page: Click here
  • Nearby Hikes: Sespe Creek, Cozy Dell Trail, Potrero John, Gene Marshall/Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail