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Aptos Creek
Aptos Creek 2017-04-16.jpg
Aptos Creek at Spreckels Boulevard bridge in April, 2017
Other name(s) Arroyo de Outos
Country United States
State California
Region Santa Cruz County
City Aptos
Physical characteristics
Main source Southwest flank of Santa Rosalia Mountain
2,502 ft (763 m)
River mouth Monterey Bay
7 ft (2.1 m)
Basin features
  • Left:
    Mangels Gulch, Valencia Creek
  • Right:
    Bridge Creek

Aptos Creek is a southward flowing 9.5 miles (15.3 km) creek that begins on Santa Rosalia Mountain on the southwestern slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains in Santa Cruz County, California and enters Monterey Bay, at Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, California.


The earliest record of "Outos" or "Aptos" is Arroyo de Outos in 1796, thought to be pronunciations of an Ohlone (Sp. Costanoan) village at the junction of Aptos and Valencia Creeks. Rancho de Aptos was a sheep ranch of Mission Santa Cruz shown on documents dating to July 5, 1807. Rancho Aptos was a 6,686-acre (27.06 km2) Mexican land grant in present-day Santa Cruz County, California, given in 1833 by Governor José Figueroa to Rafael Castro.

Watershed and course

Aptos Creek birds
Water birds in Aptos Creek, including common mergansers, coots, and mallards

The Aptos Creek watershed drains 24.5 square miles (63 km2) beginning on the southwestern slope of 2,585 feet (788 m) tall Santa Rosalia Mountain in the western Santa Cruz Mountains. Over 60% of the watershed of the Aptos Creek mainstem lies within and is protected by The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. The major tributaries are (from top to bottom) Bridge Creek, Mangels Gulch, and then Valencia Creek (shortly after the latter receives its Trout Gulch tributary).

Aptos Creek mouth
The mouth of Aptos Creek, from above Beach Drive, with the orange sunlight of August 2020 wildfires


Aptos Creek pay phone
Aptos Creek steel bridge in the middle of the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, with pay phone

The middle and upper watershed is in a second growth redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) forest that was clearcut over a forty-year period from 1883 to 1923. Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in Central Coast streams are federally listed as endangered and threatened species, respectively.

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