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  • Ellie Skromme

Conquering the Salinas River

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

"It was not a fine river at all, but it was the only one we had and so we boasted about it–how dangerous it was in a wet winter and how dry it was in a dry summer. You can boast about anything if it’s all you have. Maybe the less you have, the more you are required to boast,” –a description of the Salinas River from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.


The Salinas River is and has been a staple of all Salinas Valley settlements since the beginning of their development. The river itself is far from the normal image of a river, and instead has been coined “the upside-down river” for the store of water to be stored underground as opposed to flowing on top. Residents of the Salinas Valley are familiar with the sparse waters in the summer, but when winter rolls around, the sheer volume and velocity of its flow.


Throughout the course of King City’s settlement, mother nature regularly thwarted attempts to bridge across the Salinas River, and noticing the violent flow of the river, jetties were installed to protect against riverbank erosion. Due to the inconsistency and unsuccess of early bridge attempts, a “flying duck” contraption, which consisted of a cable and a basket that ran along it, was used to transport people from the Pine Canyon area and King City.


Along with the formation of Nacimiento Lake in 1956, the San Antonio Lake in 1965, and the damming of tributaries (streams that flow into larger streams or rivers) that once bolstered the Salinas River flow, flood damage became less frequent and less devastating. Additionally, the damming of water flow gave farmers of the time the ability to save water use, making agriculture more efficient in the area.


Today, the remnants of our predecessors’ efforts to cross and conquer the Salinas River can be seen across the valley. In the park alone (San Lorenzo Park), supports of the past bridge’s trajectory can be seen by the walking trail beyond the standing trail bridge. In the same region, three more concrete supports, as well as remnants of wooden piling can be observed as memorabilia for the past bridges in attempts to settle along the Salinas Valley.


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