Guadalupe River (California): Wikis


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Guadalupe River (Rio de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe [1])
Rio de San Jose[2]
Name origin: Spanish language
Country United States
State California
Region Santa Clara County
 - left Ross Creek, Los Gatos Creek
 - right Canoas Creek
City San Jose, California
Source Lake Almaden, at confluence of Los Alamitos Creek and Guadalupe Creek
 - location San Jose, California
 - elevation 194 ft (59 m)
 - coordinates 37°14′48″N 121°52′16″W / 37.24667°N 121.87111°W / 37.24667; -121.87111 [1]
Secondary source
 - elevation 194 ft (59 m)
Mouth Alviso Slough, San Francisco Bay
 - location Alviso, San Jose, California
 - elevation ft (0 m)
 - coordinates 37°25′33″N 121°58′46″W / 37.42583°N 121.97944°W / 37.42583; -121.97944 [1]

The Guadalupe River is a short river in California whose headwater creeks form in the Santa Cruz Mountains near the summit of Loma Prieta and Mount Umunhum. The river mainstem now begins on the Santa Clara Valley floor at the northern end of Lake Almaden, which is fed by Los Alamitos Creek and Guadalupe Creek, just downstream of Coleman Road in San Jose, California. From here it flows north through San Jose, emptying into the San Francisco Bay at the Alviso Slough after a traverse of 14 miles (23 km). Historically the Guadalupe River was even shorter, originating several miles further north, at the downstream end of a large willow swamp that is now Willow Glen. Its main tributary was known as Arroyo Seco de Guadalupe on 1860 maps and then as Arroyo Seco de Los Capitancillos on the 1876 Thompson & West maps.[3] The Guadalupe River runs through the City of San Jose, California, although it serves as the eastern boundary of the City of Santa Clara and the western boundary of Alviso.

Much of the river is surrounded by parks. The river's Los Alamitos and Guadalupe Creek tributaries are, in turn, fed by smaller streams flowing from Almaden Quicksilver County Park, home to former mercury mines dating back to when the area was governed by Mexico. It is named after the New Almaden Quicksilver Mines, which were named after the mercury mine in (old) Almadén, Spain, and produced mercury that was used to process ore during the Gold Rush.[4] The entire 3 miles (5 km) downtown stretch, from Interstate 280 to Interstate 880, is part of the Guadalupe River Park and Gardens, one of the largest urban parks currently in development in the United States. Also, the Guadalupe River Trail runs along 11 miles (18 km) of the river bank.



The Guadalupe River was named by the De Anza Expedition on March 30, 1776, Rio de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, in honor of the Mexican saint who was the principal patron saint of the expedition. Specifically, Juan Bautista de Anza camped along the banks of the Guadalupe River at Expedition Camp 97 on March 30, 1776 near the present–day site of Agnews State Hospital (Santa Clara County, 2001).[5] The historic de Anza Expedition explored much of Santa Clara County, traversing western areas en route from Monterey to San Francisco, and traveling around the south end of San Francisco Bay and thence through the eastern portions of the county on the return trip after exploration of parts of the East Bay.

In 1777, the original Mission Santa Clara de Thamien and el Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe were established on the banks of Mission Creek, un tiro de escopeta (a musket shot away) from its confluence with the Guadalupe River.[6] Both had to be moved away from the river because of mosquitoes in the summertime and flooding during the winter. Today Santa Clara Mission is 2 miles (3.2 km) away from the original location.

On July 9, 2005, the fossilized bones of a juvenile Columbian Mammoth were discovered in the Lower Guadalupe River near the Trimble Road overcrossing. The discovery was made by San Jose resident and Guadalupe-Coyote Resource Conservation District volunteer Roger Castillo while walking his dog.[7] The Pleistocene mammoth was nicknamed "Lupe" by area residents and Lupe's skeleton was exhibited at the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose.[8]

Guadalupe River Watershed

Opening day festivities at the Guadalupe River Park and Gardens
Great egret (Ardea alba) at the confluence of Los Gatos Creek and the Guadalupe River 2007

Historically, the Guadalupe River flowed into Guadalupe Slough, west of its current drainage into Alviso Slough. To make it easier to get sailboats up the Guadalupe River to the port of Alviso, the river was redirected into the straighter Alviso Slough by the 1870s. Alviso Slough, also known as Steamboat Slough historically, was relatively straight, while Guadalupe Slough meandered extensively through the marshes. Alviso Slough was historically not fed by any upland streams, but simply carried tidewater in and out of the extensive salt marshes.[9]

The re-routing of the river to Alviso Slough in the 1870's also disconnected it from several tributaries, and had the effect of shrinking the Guadalupe River Watershed. Saratoga Creek, previously known as San Jon Creek and Campbell Creek, and its respective tributaries San Tomas Aquino Creek (current) and Calabazas Creek (historic), used to enter the Guadalupe River upstream of Alviso. These tributaries were disconnected from the river and re-routed directly into Guadalupe Slough between 1876 and 1890 according to historic maps. Reportedly, Saratoga Creek (Campbell Creek) had steelhead and coho salmon runs. Large portions of the tributaries of the river were straightened and armored starting in the late 1800's and continuing through the 1900's first by farmers and then by the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) and its predecessor organizations. They now go dry in the summer months and their lower segments have become denuded ditches requiring continuous maintenance. Mission Creek used to harbor trout and salmon but today it is buried in a culvert. The historic watershed can be viewed in the Thompson and West 1876 maps.[10][3]

The Guadalupe Watershed today drains an area of 171 square miles (440 km2). Below its origination at the confluence of Guadalupe Creek and Los Alamitos Creek, the mainstem is joined by three other tributaries: Ross, Canoas, and Los Gatos Creeks.[11] The SCVWD manages water flows (supply) and provides flood control on the river, and recently has started to promote watershed stewardship. Six major reservoirs exist in the watershed: Calero Reservoir on Calero Creek, Guadalupe Reservoir on Guadalupe Creek, Almaden Reservoir on Alamitos Creek, Vasona Reservoir, Lexington Reservoir, and Lake Elsman on Los Gatos Creek.



The river occasionally floods in downtown San Jose, south of downtown, as well as in Alviso. Flooding prompted President Clinton to declare a National Disaster Area in 1995 and 1997. In March 1995, flooding of this river around the San Jose Arena caused the cancellation of a San Jose Sharks game, the only rainout in the history of the National Hockey League.[12] This flood, like most Guadalupe River floods, was triggered by undersized bridges, in this case the Julian Street Bridge.

The river has flooded 15 times since World War II. In response to this flooding, the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) has launched a series of flood protection projects along the Guadalupe River to ensure that residential and commercial areas near the river are protected from 100-year floods. However, a major flood control project, designed to control a 100-year flood, was supposed to be completed in December, 2004, but is still incomplete, despite expenditures estimated at $350 million. The Santa Clara Street bridge and the railroad trestle downstream of Julian Street are still both too small to pass a 100-year flood and need to be replaced.[13] The greatest Guadalupe River flood on record occurred in 1955 and was part of the legendary "Christmas Week Floods" when the Guadalupe River flooded 8,300 acres (34 km2).[14]

Mercury Contamination

The Guadalupe Watershed was an area of intense activity during the California Gold Rush, with the quicksilver mines within Santa Clara County supporting the gold refinement process.[15] Thus, mercury toxicity and its effects on surrounding humans and wildlife is a major concern for the area. Because mercury is an effective magnet for gold, miners during the Gold Rush would regularly line their sluices with Mercury to amalgamate the gold. An estimated 6,500 tons of mercury was lost in the system of creeks and rivers along the coast between 1850 and 1920, and is currently being detected today in the local streams, animal life, and riverbeds of these affected tributaries.[16][17][18]

Restoration of the River Mouth

Ending nine years of study and passionate debate about the future of the San Jose/Alviso waterfront, the Santa Clara Valley Water District in November, 2009 voted to approve a $6 million project to clear bulrushes, tule reeds and thick sediment from the Guadalupe River in Alviso.[19] The construction of salt evaporation ponds in the 1930s rerouted the Guadalupe River, cutting off tidal action. Later, in the 1960s, as Alviso was being annexed into San Jose, the Army Corps of Engineers and the water district straightened the river to improve flood safety, which inadvertently increased sedimentation into Alviso Slough. The current project will open a former Cargill Salt pond (known as A8) as the beginning of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, considered the largest tidal wetland restoration project on the West Coast. When complete, the project should restore 15,100 acres (61 km2) of industrial salt ponds to tidal wetlands. Pond A8 will be the first one worked on.[20]

Habitat and Wildlife

Declining King Salmon Populations on the Guadalupe River, courtesy of Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Group 2006

Early written documents record the local presence of migrating salmon in the ‘'Rio Guadalupe'’ dating as far back as the 1700s.[21] Both steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and King salmon are extant in the river, making the Guadalupe River one of only two major U. S. cities with known salmon spawning runs, the other being Anchorage, Alaska. Runs of up to 1,000 Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) swam up the Guadalupe River each fall in the 1990's, but have all but vanished in the current decade apparently blocked from access to breeding grounds by culverts, weirs and overly wide, exposed and flat concrete paved channels installed by the SCVWD.[22] By 2006 less than 40 King salmon were counted, although two managed to get up to Los Gatos that year and spawn below the California State Route 17 Freeway bridge over Los Gatos Creek in back of the Pruneyard Shopping Center.[23]

Caspian Tern at Guadalupe Watershed 2009, courtesy of Mercury Freedom 2009
Black-crowned Night Heron at Guadalupe Watershed, courtesy of Mercury Freedom 2009

On the Los Gatos Creek tributary a population of California Golden beavers (Castor canadensis subauratus) has been re-established between Lake Elsman and Lexington Reservoir. The beaver were restocked to the portion of Los Gatos Creek where it enters Lexington Reservoir sometime prior to 1997, and recently, a beaver reportedly served as "a hearty meal" for a local mountain lion.[24] Historical evidence of beaver in the area includes reference by Captain John Sutter who around 1840 recorded that 1,500 beaver pelts were sold "at a trifling value" by the Indians to Mission San José.[25] In addition, in 1828 fur trapper Michel La Framboise travelled from the Bonaventura River to San Francisco and then the missions of San José, San Francisco Solano and San Rafael Arcángel. La Framboise stated that "the Bay of San Francisco abounds in beaver", and that he "made his best hunt in the vicinity of the missions".[26] The beaver were likely wiped out by the mid-nineteenth century.

Caspian terns (Hydroprogne caspia), North America's largest tern, return to the Bay every spring to nest, migrating from as far away as Colombia. According to scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, Caspian tern populations in the South Bay are declining at the same time that high levels of mercury are being found in their eggs. The highest mercury levels found in animals from the Bay were in the eggs of Caspian and Forster's (Sterna forsteri) terns that nest near the Cargill salt ponds at the mouth of the Guadalupe River. A study conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has found that nearly three-quarters of the eggs examined from black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) nests in the Guadalupe watershed contained mercury exceeding thresholds known to kill the embryos of other bird species.[27]

See also


  1. ^ a b c U.S. Geological Survey Geographical Names Information System: Guadalupe River
  2. ^ Durham, David L. (1998). Durham's Place Names of California's San Francisco Bay Area: Includes Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Alameda, Solano & Santa Clara counties. Word Dancer Press, Sanger, California. p. 639. ISBN 78-1884995149.'s+adobe+creek&source=bl&ots=nGP_UR-2fL&sig=HK2QHg35tP3gaV3oBh76SxOgpDg&hl=en&ei=xhvcSv3hBoHiswOineCDBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAsQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=guadalupe%20river&f=false. 
  3. ^ a b Historical Atlas of Santa Clara County California. San Francisco, California: Thompson & West. 1876. 
  4. ^ "About the Almaden Valley". Almaden Valley Community Association. Retrieved Dec. 26, 2009. 
  5. ^ de Anza, Juan Bautista (1776). Diary of Juan Bautista de Anza October 23, 1775 - June 1, 1776. Accessed Dec. 21, 2009 University of Oregon Web de Anza pages
  6. ^ Florence M. Fava (1976). Los Altos Hills the Colorful Story. Woodside, California: Gilbert Richards Publications. p. 10. 
  7. ^ Robert Sanders (Aug. 8, 2005). "Elephants in San Jose?". UC Berkeley News. Retrieved Dec. 21, 2009. 
  8. ^ Nick Pyenson. "Metropolitan Mammoth - One fossil's journey from riverbed to museum exhibit". Berkeley Science Review. Retrieved Dec. 21,2009. 
  9. ^ "Guadalupe Slough Watershed". Oakland Museum. Retrieved Jan. 15, 2010. 
  10. ^ Durham, David L. (1998). Durham's Place Names of California's San Francisco Bay Area: Includes Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Alameda, Solano & Santa Clara counties. Word Dancer Press, Sanger, California. p. 162. ISBN 78-1884995149.,+san+jose&source=bl&ots=fK9PfHjT_n&sig=sK2_Pb1F2VbPg6FsSxAmem2wBSI&hl=en&ei=VmdRS5SoNofitgP_04WECA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=san%20jon%20creek%2C%20san%20jose&f=false. Retrieved Jan. 15, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Guadalupe Watershed, Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program". Retrieved Dec. 21, 2009. 
  12. ^ Randy Hahn (Oct. 16, 2007). "San Jose Sharks - Seagate Technology's "In the Crease": The Weird Factor". Retrieved Dec. 21, 2009. 
  13. ^ U.S. Army Corps of Engineers "Guadalupe River flood control project". U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Retrieved Dec. 21, 2009. 
  14. ^ Paul Rogers (March 14, 2009). "Major flood project completed on Lower Guadalupe River in San Jose". Retrieved Dec. 21, 2009. 
  15. ^ (1976) Final Environmental Impact Report, Almaden Quicksilver Park . Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department. (Report).
  16. ^ "Measurement of Sediment and Contaminant Loads from the Guadalupe River Watershed". San Francisco Estuary Institute. October 2002. Retrieved Dec. 21, 2009. 
  17. ^ Amanda Fuller (2002). "Addressing the Environmental Mercury Problem in Watersheds: Remediation in the Guadalupe River Watershed". San Jose, California: University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved Dec. 21, 2009. 
  18. ^ Russell, Daniel L. (April, 2005). "Derivation of Numeric Wildlife Targets for Methylmercury in the Development of a Total Maximum Daily Load for the Guadalupe River Watershed". U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved Dec. 21, 2009. 
  19. ^ Paul Rogers (Nov. 10, 2009). "Santa Clara Valley Water District approves project to widen Guadalupe River at Alviso". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved Dec. 21, 2009. 
  20. ^ Ian Bauer (Aug. 5, 2009). "Federal Monies Back Salt Pond Flow Project". Milpitas Post. Retrieved Dec. 21, 2009. 
  21. ^ "Historical distribution and current status of steelhead/rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in streams of the San Francisco Estuary, California.". Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration, Oakland, CA.. 2005. Retrieved 2009-10-18. 
  22. ^ "Sensitive Fish Species in the Santa Cruz Mountains Bioregion". Santa Cruz Mountains Bioregional Council. 2004. Retrieved Dec. 21, 2009. 
  23. ^ Roger Castillo (2006). "Guadalupe River colvert system blocks salmon and other fish from migrating upstream". Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Group. Retrieved Dec. 24, 2009. 
  24. ^ Lisa M. Krieger (Oct. 5, 2009). "Tracking the big cats". Retrieved Nov. 25, 2009. 
  25. ^ Kat Anderson (2006). Tending the wild: Native American knowledge and the management of California. University of California Press. p. 79. ISBN 0520248511. 
  26. ^ Alice Bay Maloney and John Work (June, 1944). "Fur Brigade to the Bonaventura: John Work's California Expedition of 1832-33 for the Hudson's Bay Company (Concluded)". California Historical Society Quarterly: 343. Retrieved Jan. 21, 2010. 
  27. ^ Jane Kay (Oct-Dec 2003). "Four Threats to a Healthy Bay - Habitat Loss; Pollution; Freshwater Flow; Invasive Species". Bay Nature. Retrieved Dec. 22, 2009. 

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