Explore Monterey County Parks Tour

Carmel River Wetlands State Park

The Carmel River wetlands is located along side the mouth of Carmel River.

The lagoon at the mouth of the Carmel River was formed as a result of the opposing forces of the river and the Pacific Ocean meeting head on here at the shoreline.

The long shore currents of the ocean are continuously depositing sand on the beach at the rivers mouth. Periodically this sand gets built up into a sandbar and the river no longer flows freely out in the ocean. Instead, the water flowing down the river fills up the lagoon and backs up into the marshy area behind the lagoon.

After a rainstorms, when enough water is flowing down the river to break through the sand bar the lagoon finally begins to empty and the river flows into the ocean once again.

The brackish water in the lagoon and marsh is combination of fresh water and salty sea water, it serves as the life blood for the very productive plant community of the marsh.
The pickle-weed salt grass and tule reeds provide food and shelter for a variety of animals ranging in size from tiny aquatic organisms to large waterfowl.

The Carmel River also hosts the southern most major steelhead trout run in North America, with approximately 2000 adult fish
swimming up the river from the ocean to spawn each year.

Between the southern end of San Francisco Bay and Morro Bay, a distance of 160 miles, the coastal salt marsh habitat is found
only at Elkhorn Slough and here,at the mouth of the Carmel River. The lagoon and marsh offer a rare glimpse into a type of ecosystem that can be seen in only a very few places along the coast of California.


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