Pajaro River view from the bridge on Thurwachter Road. Photo by John Pilge, Summer 2010. The Pajaro River is sometimes called "Pajaro Creek" by locals.

The Pajaro River is the border between Monterey County and Santa Cruz County. It is also part of the border between Santa Clara County and San Benito County. There is a bridge over the Pajaro River about one mile from Aromas that is the location where Santa Cruz County, Monterey County and San Benito county meet. The Pajaro River is also the northern border of the Royal Oaks area of Monterey County.

Pajaro river headwaters are in the Diablo Range. The river flows west for 30 miles, between the city of Watsonville and and the community of Pajaro, emptying into Monterey Bay. The San Benito River joins the river about 15 miles upstream from the ocean. San Felipe Lake is a permanent lake east of the San Benito/Pajaro Rivers junction. Soap Lake is an intermittent body of water a few miles downstream of San Felipe Lake. This type of water body forms when the downstream area is unable to keep up with the flow coming from upstream.

The Pajaro River Watershed Flood Prevention Authority, established in 2000, has one member of each governing body that controls the river. The government bodies in charge of the river are: • County of Monterey • County of San Benito • County of Santa Clara • County of Santa Cruz • Monterey County Water Resources Agency • San Benito County Water District • Santa Clara Valley Water District • Santa Cruz County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, Zone 7

The Army Corp of Engineers also assists with the evaluation and construction projects on the river.

The Pajaro River is the main drainage for the Pajaro River watershed area that the Pajaro Valley Water Management Authority governs. The river drains over 1,200 square miles of area.


In the 1700's explorers saw a straw-stuffed bird at the river mouth and named the river, Rio Del Pájaro which means "River of the Bird." Pajaro was later applied to the Valley and other features. In 2006, the American Rivers organization added the Pajaro River to the list of America's most endangered rivers.


Only a few places in the river are deep enough to float watercraft. In this regard, the river is considered non-navigable. In the early part of the 20th Century, a temporary dam was built on the river near Main Street. This allowed for small boats during summer but only lasted for two years. There are several bridges crossing the river. The most used are Highway 101 (in San Benito County), Highway 1, and the Main Street Pajaro Bridge.


The Pajaro River can be found on the following USGS maps.

Sequence Latitude(DEC) Longitude(DEC) Latitude(DMS) Longitude(DMS) Map Name
1 36.8499546 -121.8096744 365100N 1214835W Moss Landing
2 36.8749540 -121.7963406 365230N 1214747W Watsonville West
3 36.9052312 -121.7507832 365419N 1214503W Watsonville East
4 36.9110637 -121.6257781 365440N 1213733W Chittenden
5 36.9818929 -121.4882715 365855N 1212918W San Felipe

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