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Brea Creek
Brea Creek is located in California
Brea Creek
Location of the mouth of Brea Creek in California
Country United States
State California
Counties Orange County, San Bernardino, Los Angeles County
Cities Brea, Fullerton, Whittier
Physical characteristics
Main source La Habra, Orange County, California
690 ft (210 m)
River mouth Coyote Creek
Whittier, California
65 ft (20 m)
Length 11.7 mi (18.8 km)
Basin features
Basin size 23.6 sq mi (61 km2)

Brea Creek is one of four principal tributaries of Coyote Creek, which is a lower tributary of the San Gabriel River. It drains parts of Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties in the southern part of the U.S. state of California. The creek flows 11.7 miles (18.8 km) from the cities of Brea and Anaheim to Whittier, where its mouth is on the left bank of Coyote Creek, at a point 481 feet (147 m) lower in elevation.

Ancient times

In ancient times, the Brea Creek was no doubt utilized by the Native American Indian people, known in their indigenous tongue as the ‘Tongva’, which means people of the earth and later referred to by the Spanish as the ‘Gabrieliño’, that inhabited the La Habra valley for the past 10,000 years. Brea was then within the ethnographic boundaries of the Tongva; their village was called Nacaunga in the Tongva language and was strategically located at the mouth of the Brea Canyon adjacent to the Brea Creek.

Colonial times

In colonial times, on Saturday, July 29, 1769, the Spanish explorer Don Gaspar de Portolá i Rovira along with Father Junipero Serra and others such as José Antonio Yorba (from whom the City of Yorba Linda in Orange County was eventually named) camped at la Brea Canyon north of Fullerton within the La Habra Valley region near a stream [Brea Creek] and near a canyon [Brea Canyon] called in the Spanish tongue ‘La Cañada de la Brea’, having crossed the Santa Ana River along ‘El Camino Real’, which ran through Anaheim, Fullerton, Brea and La Habra on their famed march from San Diego to Monterrey. Moreover, most of the waterways in the Orange County area received their name from Spanish Conquistadores in the 18th century.


The creek begins in the northeasternmost part of the Coyote Creek drainage basin, in a mountain canyon named Brea Canyon, at the Los Angeles CountySan Bernardino County line. It flows southwest, receiving over ten small right-bank tributaries, before crossing the Orange County–Riverside County line and receiving Tonner Canyon (also Toner) on the left bank. The creek bends northwest then sharply southwest, receives a few more tributaries on either bank, and flows into the northernmost arm of Brea Reservoir. Exiting the Brea Reservoir dam, the creek bends west-northwest in a straight and channelized course, receives several small right-bank tributaries, flows past a retention basin on the left bank, and joins Coyote Creek shortly upstream of Fullerton Creek, the next major tributary.


From 1932 to 1969, the USGS operated two streamflow gauges on Brea Creek, one at the mouth and one at Brea Reservoir. The highest flow recorded at the mouth (Fullerton) was 3,700 cubic feet per second (100 m3/s) on 14 March 1941. Four other flows during that period exceeded 1,000 second-feet, all before 1941.

River modifications

There are four drop structures on Brea Creek, all of which are built of reinforced concrete, in the lower course of the creek, which is referred to as the "Brea Canyon Channel".

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