Salinas Valley

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Salinas Valley
Greenfield California.JPG
Salinas Valley, on River Road near Greenfield.
Length90 miles (145 km)northwest to southeast
Native nameValle de Salinas  (Spanish)
Location California, United States
Population centers Castroville, Salinas, King City, San Ardo
Traversed by U.S. Route 101
Rivers Salinas River

The Salinas Valley is one of the major valleys and most productive agricultural regions in California. [1] It is located west of the San Joaquin Valley and south of San Francisco Bay and the Santa Clara Valley.


The Salinas River, which geologically formed the fluvial valley and generated its human history, flows to the northwest or 'up' along the principal axis and the length of the valley.

The valley was named during the late 18th-century Spanish colonial Alta California period, and in Spanish Salina is the term for a salt marsh, salt lake, or salt pan. The seasonal Salinas River had brackish tule ponds in broad depressed areas, and more salinity during summer and when drought lowered flows.

The valley runs in a southeast to northwest alignment. It begins south of San Ardo, framed by the central inner California Coast Ranges, continues northwestward continuously defined on the west by the Santa Lucia Range, on the east by the Gabilan Range, to its end and the river's mouth at the Monterey Bay.

It is also known for being the setting of the novels East of Eden and Of Mice and Men , by John Steinbeck.


Map of the Salinas River watershed. Salinas River watershed.png
Map of the Salinas River watershed.

The Salinas Valley runs approximately 90 miles (145 km) southeast from the Salinas River mouth near Castroville and Salinas towards King City and San Ardo. The valley lends its name to the geologic province in which it is located, the Salinian Block. Cities and populated places in the Salinas Valley include Bradley, Castroville, Chualar, Gonzales, Greenfield, Jolon, King City, Salinas, San Ardo, San Lucas, Soledad and Spreckels. The Salinas Valley is located in between the Gabilan and Santa Lucia mountain ranges, which border the Salinas Valley to the east and the west, respectively.


Before colonization, the valley was inhabited by indigenous Salinans who lived by hunting and gathering and spoke the Salinan language.

The Spanish colonial missions of San Miguel Arcángel, San Antonio de Padua and Nuestra Señora de la Soledad were all founded within the Salinas Valley in the late 18th century; from the last grew the city of Soledad.

An NYA photo illustrating young farm workers and the mechanization of agriculture. Monterey County, California. Rural youth. Mechanization, the agricultural employee. At the wheel of a farm-all tractor - NARA - 532242.tif
An NYA photo illustrating young farm workers and the mechanization of agriculture.

The commercial farming sector of the Dust Bowl era forms the backdrop for several John Steinbeck stories including East of Eden , Tortilla Flat , Of Mice and Men , The Chrysanthemums , and Johnny Bear .

At a railroad crossing about one mile south of Chualar, a bus carrying Mexican migrant workers collided with a train in September 1963, killing 32 passengers and injuring 25. It was the most serious road accident in U.S. history, and helped spur abolition of the bracero program.


Agriculture dominates the economy of the valley. Promoters call the Salinas Valley "the Salad Bowl of the World" for the production of lettuce, broccoli, peppers and numerous other crops. The climate and long growing season are also ideal for the flower industry and grape vineyards planted by world-famous vintners.

In particular, a large majority[ citation needed ] of the salad greens consumed in the U.S. are grown within this region. Strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, and spinach are the dominant crops in the valley. Other crops include broccoli, cauliflower, wine grapes, artichokes, and celery. Due to the intensity of local agriculture, the area has earned itself the nickname "America's Salad Bowl." The flower industry, grown in greenhouses, is now dominated by Matsui Nursery, which has been a major philanthropic benefactor to Salinas.

Salinas Valley is also an important viticultural area. Three American Viticultural Association "American Viticultural Area" domains are located within Salinas Valley: the Arroyo Seco AVA, the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, and the Monterey AVA. [2] [3]

Although agriculture forms an economic base, more than 100 manufacturing firms call Salinas home. Some of the largest employers in the area include: Dole Fresh Vegetable, the County of Monterey, and Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital.


An agricultural irrigation system near Chualar in the Salinas Valley. Irrigation system.JPG
An agricultural irrigation system near Chualar in the Salinas Valley.

Supplying Salinas Valley farms is an underground water supply fed, in part, by the large watershed in surrounding mountains. Two reservoirs – Nacimiento and San Antonio—store and release the water for groundwater recharge, flood control and farming. Wells access the groundwater to irrigate about 275,000 acres (1,110 km2) of fruits and vegetables and to supply the valley cities. The Salinas River itself is a sand river, so water appears on the surface only during heavy rains or when water is released from the upstream reservoirs. Increasing demand for water near the mouth of the valley is pulling seawater under the coastal area. The Salinas Valley Water Project, now under construction by the Monterey County Water Resources Agency, will use an inflatable dam near Salinas to capture more water during wet periods. Monterey County Water Recycling Projects, a combination of the Castroville Seawater Intrusion Project and the Salinas Valley Reclamation Project, started delivering recycled water to fields near Castroville in 1998. The projects reduce pumping of groundwater and slow down seawater intrusion.


The Salinas Valley's weather varies from north to south. Proximity to Monterey Bay and the cool coastal waters of the Pacific cools the northern part of the valley in summer, and keeps it relatively mild in winter. The southern portion of the valley has greater extremes of temperature, hotter in summer, and colder in winter.

In summer, inland heating draws the marine layer into the valley, with fog and low clouds near Monterey Bay, sometimes extending farther down the valley.

The climate is ideal for the numerous vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands, promoting growth of winetasting along the River Road Wine Trail.

Events held in Salinas

The California Rodeo Salinas, California International Airshow, [4] the National Steinbeck Center, and the Steinbeck Festival are major attractions.

2007 Salmonella outbreak

On August 30, 2007, 8,000 cartons of spinach (from Metz Fresh, a King City-based grower and shipper, Salinas Valley, California) were recalled after Salmonella was discovered on routine testing. The incident led to a call from some consumer advocates and lawmakers for greater oversight in food safety, even if 90% of the suspect vegetable did not reach the shelves. [5]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Monterey County, California</span> County in California, United States

Monterey County, officially the County of Monterey, is a county located on the Pacific coast in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2020 census, its population was 439,035. The county's largest city and county seat is Salinas.

Castroville, California Unincorporated community in California, United States

Castroville is an unincorporated town and census-designated place (CDP) in Monterey County, California. At the time of the 2020 census the population was 7,515. Castroville is known for its artichoke crop and for the annual Castroville Artichoke Festival, leading to its nickname as the "Artichoke Center of the World".

Greenfield, California City in the state of California, United States

Greenfield is a city in Monterey County, California, United States in the Salinas Valley, 33 miles (53 km) southeast of Salinas, at an elevation of 289 feet. The city was the fastest growing in the county during the 2000s: the population was 12,583 in 2000, increasing to 16,330 in the 2010 census. Its most well-known public event is the annual Harvest Festival. Greenfield is a member of the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Salinas, California</span> City in the state of California, United States

Salinas is a city in California and the county seat of Monterey County. With a population of 163,542 in the 2020 Census, Salinas is the most populous city in Monterey County. Salinas is an urban area located in the Monterey Bay Area, just south of the San Francisco Bay Area and 10 miles (16 km) southeast of the mouth of the Salinas River. The city is located at the mouth of the Salinas Valley, about eight miles (13 km) from the Pacific Ocean, and it has a climate more influenced by the ocean than the interior.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Soledad, California</span> City in the state of California, United States

Soledad is a city in the Salinas Valley of Monterey County, California 21 miles (33 km) from Salinas. Soledad's population was 25,738 at the 2010 census. Soledad's origins started with Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, founded by the Spanish in 1791, under the leadership of Fermín de Lasuén. Catalina Munrás began developing the town of Soledad on her Rancho San Vicente in the 1860s, which eventually incorporated as a city in 1921. Today, Soledad is a notable tourist destination, owing to the heavily restored mission, its proximity to Pinnacles National Park, and its numerous vineyards, as part of the Monterey wine region.

Salinas River (California) River in the California, United States of America

The Salinas River is the longest river of the Central Coast region of California, running 175 miles (282 km) and draining 4,160 square miles (10,800 km2). It flows north-northwest and drains the Salinas Valley that slices through the central California Coast Ranges south of Monterey Bay. The river begins in southern San Luis Obispo County, originating in the Los Machos Hills of the Los Padres National Forest. From there, the river flows north into Monterey County, eventually making its way to connect with the Monterey Bay, part of the Pacific Ocean, approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Moss Landing. The river is a wildlife corridor, and provides the principal source of water from its reservoirs and tributaries for the farms and vineyards of the valley.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Salinan</span> Native people and language of Monterey County, California

The Salinan are a Native American tribe whose ancestral territory is in the southern Salinas Valley and the Santa Lucia Range in the Central Coast of California. Today, the Salinan governments are now working toward federal tribal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Jolon, California Unincorporated community in California, United States

Jolon is small unincorporated village in southern Monterey County, California. Jolon is located in the San Antonio River Valley, west of Salinas Valley.

Area code 831 Area code for Monterey, Salinas and Santa Cruz, California

Area code 831 is a telephone area code in the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) for a small region of the U.S. state of California. The numbering plan area (NPA) comprises Monterey County, San Benito County, and Santa Cruz County. The area code was created on July 11, 1998 in a split from area code 408.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gabilan Range</span>

The Gabilan Range or Gabilán Range are a mountain range in the inner California Coast Ranges System, located in Monterey County and San Benito County of central California. Pinnacles National Park is located in the southern section of the range.

Nacimiento River River in the United States of America

The Nacimiento River is a 64.8-mile-long (104.3 km) river in southern Monterey County and northern San Luis Obispo County, California. A large portion of the river's run is on military reservations. The river's upper reaches are inside Fort Hunter Liggett, Lake Nacimiento is in the middle and the lower reaches are inside Camp Roberts. It is the largest tributary of the Salinas River in terms of streamflow.

The San Antonio Valley AVA is an American Viticultural Area centered on San Antonio Valley, California in southern Monterey County, California. The AVA was approved in July 2006 by the United States Department of the Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

The San Lucas AVA is an American Viticultural Area located in Monterey County, California. It is located at the southern end of Salinas Valley, shares an eastern border with the Chalone AVA, and is bordered on the west by the Santa Lucia Range foothills. The appellation has the largest diurnal temperature variation of any of California's AVAs. There is a current petition to designate the San Bernabe vineyard, located at the region's northern end, as its own AVA. The vineyard is currently the world's largest continuous vineyard.

The Monterey AVA is an American Viticultural Area located in eastern Monterey County, California. It was established in 1984. It is part of the larger Central Coast AVA. It runs roughly 100 miles (160 km) from its northern point, north of Monterey Bay to its southern point, abutting Paso Robles, California. Approximately 40,000 acres (160 km2) of wine grapes are currently cultivated in the Monterey AVA.

The Hames Valley AVA is an American Viticultural Area located in Monterey County, California at about 35°52'N 120°52'W, about 2 km west of US Route 101. It became an AVA in 1994. It is part of the larger Monterey AVA, and is located at the southern end of the Salinas Valley in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Range. The soil in the valley is shale and loam, and the climate is slightly warmer than other regions of Monterey. In addition to Bordeaux varietals, traditional Port grapes such as Tinta Cao and Touriga Nacional are grown in the valley. One recent significant wine is the 2008 Nybakken "IV Amici" Petite Syrah.

The San Bernabe AVA is an American Viticultural Area located in southern Monterey County, California. It is part of the larger Monterey AVA. San Bernabe is located in the Salinas Valley, between the Salinas River on the east, and the Santa Lucia Mountains on the west. To the north of the appellation is Pine Canyon and to the south is the San Lucas AVA.

The Santa Lucia Highlands AVA is an American Viticultural Area located in Monterey County, California. It is part of the larger Monterey AVA, and located in the Santa Lucia Mountains above the Salinas Valley. Over 2,300 acres (931 ha) of vineyards are planted in the AVA, some as high as 1,200 feet (366 m) above sea level, with about half of them planted to the Pinot noir grape. The region enjoys cool morning fog and breezes from Monterey Bay followed by warm afternoons thanks to direct southern exposures to the sun.

<i>The Salinas Californian</i>

The Salinas Californian, sometimes referred to as The Californian, is a digital and print newspaper published in Salinas, California, covering mainly the Salinas Valley. Founded in 1871 as The Salinas City Index, it went through several name changes and assumed its current name during World War II. The paper is part of the USA Today Network, owned by Gannett, which acquired its parent company Speidel Newspapers Inc., in 1977.

Pisoni Vineyards and Winery Vineyard and winery located in California

Pisoni Estate is a family-owned and operated vineyard and winery located in the Santa Lucia Highlands of California’s Monterey Coast. It was founded in 1982 by Gary Pisoni, who was more interested in growing wine grapes than row crops for the family vegetable farm. He decided to plant a vineyard in the mountains above the Salinas Valley--an area previously considered undesirable for growing because of its dry, granitic soil. The vineyard began with small crops of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir, then eventually focused on the Pinot Noir for which it has become renowned.

The River Road Wine Trail is a Salinas Valley roadway trail for wine-tasting following the River Road along the western banks of the Salinas River (California). It is not to be confused with the Great River Road Wine Trail that follows along the banks of the Mississippi River. It is notably referenced in numerous books and magazines.


  1. McKibben, Carol Lynn (2022). Salinas : a history of race and resilience in an agricultural city. Stanford, California. ISBN   978-1-5036-2945-5. OCLC   1236850398.
  2. Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association: Monterey California Appellations Archived 2008-10-09 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau: Wineries in the Salinas Valley
  4. California International Airshow Salinas. (2013-01-22). Retrieved on 2014-07-21.
  5. NBC News, Spinach recall divides growers, lawmakers