San Benancio, Monterey County, California
|Elevation||226 ft (69 m)|
History and etymology
The region was named for San Benancio Gulch which is the small canyon that forms the majority of the region. A map dated 1834 lists the region as “Canada de San Benancio”. The Spanish name most likely refers to one of four saints venerated with the name Venantius. The region was settled, originally by Spaniards.
San Benancio was the inspiration for "Las Pasturas del Cielo," the fictional setting in John Steinbeck’s “Pastures of Heaven”. A Salinas native, Steinbeck spent time in his youth within San Benancio, specifically “Castle Rock” near the base of the Canyon and accurately described the region in “Pastures of Heaven”:
“. . . he saw—a long valley floored with green pasturage on which a herd of deer browsed. Perfect live oaks in the meadow of the lovely place, and the hills hugged it jealously against the fog and wind.”
Geography and climate
While it has no official boundaries, and addresses bear Salinas as the city, the colloquial place-name “San Benancio” refers to homes and businesses residing on or directly reached by San Benancio Road. This includes the Ambler Park and Harper Canyon regions found along the road.
The road itself is located along the Monterey-Salinas highway (California State Route 68) approximately 5 miles from Salinas and 15 miles from Monterey. The land falls under the jurisdiction of the Corral di Tierra Oaks Subdivision of Monterey County.
The walls of San Benancio Canyon have an elevation of 400 ft and run adjacent to Toro Creek, a small tributary to the Salinas River which is located 4 miles south. The canyon is home to a number of California Live Oak Trees and various types of wild sage brush and grass.
San Benancio enjoys the relatively warm climate of Salinas Valley most of the year, but can experience very low temperatures (for the area) during the winter. Its location within a small canyon engenders the area to late sunrises and early sunsets, but the high hills around the area shelter the homes from winds and San Benancio can often be found at a much higher temperature than urban Salinas on warm days.
The canyon is home to a wide array of wildlife as well including deer, hawks, condors, wild pigs, and a large population of wild turkeys, which, at their own peril, traverse San Benancio Road in the early mornings.
In the California State Senate, San Benancio is in the 17th Senate District, represented by Democrat Bill Monning. In the California State Assembly, it is split between the 29th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Mark Stone, and the 30th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Luis Alejo.
Education and Recreation
San Benancio’s lone educational institution is San Benancio Middle School which serves a little over 300 students in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. The school was rated 9 out of 10 by the “Great Schools” website in 2007.
The region is also served by Titus Park, a private Swim and Tennis club located along San Benancio Road. The pool remains open daily from June to September and hours are dictated by weather. The unique location of the club within the canyon walls makes for ideal pool weather during this time.
- "Monterey County Supervisorial District 5 Map (North District 5)". County of Monterey. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
- "Statewide Database". UC Regents. Retrieved February 11, 2015.
- "California's 20th Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved September 24, 2014.