For thousands of years, the inhabitants of the Santa Clara River watershed have relied on an ecologically healthy Santa Clara River ecosystem to sustain their existence and culture. Flowing 86 miles from the headwaters of the San Gabriel Mountains to the Pacific Ocean through a 1,600 square mile watershed, the Santa Clara River is southern California ’s last naturally flowing major river system that is not heavily damned or channelized.  It is home to as many as 17 species listed as threatened or endangered by state and federal governments, and includes critical habitat for the Southern California Steelhead, California red-legged frog, arroyo toad, and least Bell’s vireo. 

The Santa Clara River ’s rich biodiversity is severely threatened by anthropogenic impacts to its habitat, flow regimes, water quality, energy sources, and biotic community health. The Santa Clara River and its watershed is also home to Chumash Native American Sacred and Cultural Sites, that VCK strives to protect. The Santa Clara River and its tributaries were of vital importance to Native Americans, particularly the Chumash, who located villages along their banks.  The River and its tributaries provided them with sources of food, ceremony, cultural materials for baskets, jewelry, and clothing.  Chumash burials have been unearthed along the Santa Clara River , and unlawful dredging and filling activity in its floodplains and river bed, and channelization projects, alter and destroy sacred sites and burial sites, sometimes without the knowledge of Chumash and scientific communities.

Our efforts to protect, restore, and preserve the water quality, ecological integrity, and natural cultural resources of the Santa Clara River start with our volunteer based watershed monitoring program that enables VCK to pinpoint pollution and seek solutions to abate it at its source.