El Capitan Overview

El Capitan Creek is located in Santa Barbara County and is a coastal stream that empties directly into the Pacific Ocean. The El Capitan watershed drains approximately 6.42 square miles and contains elevations that range from sea level to 4,295 feet at the headwaters. El Capitan Creek is a second order stream with approximately 5.79 miles of blue line stream according to the USGS Santa Ynez 7.5 minute quadrangle. The majority of the watershed is dominated by montane riparian and mixed chaparral habitat. The upper watershed resides in the Los Padres National Forest flowing downstream onto private lands before entering El Capitan State Beach and thus the Pacific Ocean.

Although there is limited historical information, Oncorhynchus mykiss were reportedly observed and caught during the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s. However, the expansion of Highway 101 during the 1960’s and 70’s created an impassable barrier at the Highway 101 bridge crossing eliminating access to the majority of the watershed. The culvert at the 101 bridge was modified in 2007, thus returning access for migrating adult steelhead to spawning and rearing habitat upstream of the bridge. El Capitan Creek contains approximately 4.33 miles of anadromous habitat with an addition 1.8 miles of anadromous habitat in its West Fork branch and should be managed as a southern California steelhead stream.

El Capitan Creek - 2008 Stream Assessment Report (5.7MB pdf)

El Capitan Creek - Boulder Cascade