Cosumnes River

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For the California wine region, see Cosumnes River AVA.
Cosumnes River
A bridge over the North Fork Cosumnes River
Country United States
State California
 - left Middle Fork Cosumnes River, Ocmulgee River
 - right North Fork Cosumnes River
Cities Plymouth, Rancho Murieta, Sloughhouse, Wilton, Elk Grove.
Source Sierra Nevada
 - location Confluence of North and Middle Forks, El Dorado County
 - elevation 787 ft (240 m)
 - coordinates 38°33′13″N 120°50′50″W / 38.55361°N 120.84722°W / 38.55361; -120.84722 [1]
Mouth Mokelumne River
 - location Near Galt, Sacramento County
 - elevation 13 ft (4 m)
 - coordinates 38°15′20″N 121°26′21″W / 38.25556°N 121.43917°W / 38.25556; -121.43917Coordinates: 38°15′20″N 121°26′21″W / 38.25556°N 121.43917°W / 38.25556; -121.43917 [1]
Length 52.5 mi (84 km) [2]
Basin 724 sq mi (1,875 km2) [3]
Discharge for Michigan Bar
 - average 492 cu ft/s (14 m3/s) [4]
 - max 93,000 cu ft/s (2,633 m3/s)
 - min 0 cu ft/s (0 m3/s)
Map of the Mokelumne River watershed, including the Cosumnes River

The Cosumnes River (often pronounced /kəˈsʌmnz/) is a river in northern California in the United States. It rises on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada and flows approximately 52.5 miles (84.5 km)[2] into the Central Valley, emptying into the Mokelumne River in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Many locals pronounce the river "kunsumniss," inserting an "n" where there is none in the first syllable. Given the etymological similarity between "Cosumnes," on the one hand, and "Tuolumne" and "Mokelumne" on the other (see next paragraph), a case can be made that the most accurate historical pronunciation is "kasumme," since the "n" is essentially silent in the pronunciation of both "Tuolumne" and Mokelumne," and there is no "s" or "z" sound at the end of those names.


The Cosumnes River is thought to have been named as the Mokelumne and Tuolumne rivers were, using the "-umne" suffix meaning "people of". The prefix is derived from the Miwok word "kosum" meaning "salmon".[5] Chinook Salmon runs are rarely, if ever, seen above Rancho Murieta as a result of diversions in the area.

Cosumnes River College, a two year community college located in the southern part of Sacramento, CA is named after the river being located only a few miles off campus. CRC's mascot is the Hawk due to the number of hawks that inhabit the river area.


Flowing from the western slope of the central Sierra Nevada mountains, the Cosumnes starts as North, Middle and South forks cutting canyons through the El Dorado and Amador County Gold Country before converging just east of Highway 49. The river proper begins at the confluence of the North and Middle Forks near Enterprise. It then winds through the scenic Sierra foothills before passing into southern Sacramento County in the Sacramento Valley, joining with the Mokelumne River which in turn empties into the San Joaquin River.[6]

The Cosumnes is the only river in the western Sierra without major dams, although two small diversion dams do cross the river just upstream from Rancho Murieta near Van Vleck Park. The Nature Conservancy's Cosumnes River Preserve is located just upstream from the Delta.[7] Towns and cities along the Cosumnes River include Plymouth, Rancho Murieta, Sloughhouse, Wilton, and Elk Grove.

River modifications[edit]

As the last undammed river flowing from the west slope of the Sierra, the Cosumnes is a vital example of a healthy watershed. Plans have been proposed to re-introduce salmon spawning into the river. Dams have been proposed to be built on the river to control flows, but these plans have largely stalled because of the river's unique free-flowing status. Sacramento County officials continue to lobby for the construction of a flood-control dry dam above Rancho Murieta. Such proposals are still the subject of ongoing debate.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Cosumnes River". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 1981-01-19. Retrieved 2011-10-06. 
  2. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed March 11, 2011
  3. ^ "USGS Gage #11336000 on the Cosumnes River at McConnell, CA (Annual Statistics)". National Water Information System. U.S. Geological Survey. 1942–1980. Retrieved 2011-10-06. 
  4. ^ "USGS Gage #11335000 on the Cosumnes River at Michigan Bar, CA: Water-Data Report 2010" (PDF). National Water Information System (1908-2010). U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2011-10-06. 
  5. ^ California Place Names of Indian Origins. 1916. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology, 12(2): 31-69, p.41
  6. ^ USGS Topo Maps for United States (Map). Cartography by United States Geological Survey. ACME Mapper. Retrieved 2011-10-06. 
  7. ^ "About Cosumnes River Preserve". Cosumnes River Preserve. Retrieved 2011-10-06. 
  8. ^ "Beach Stone Lakes and Point Pleasant Flood Control Study – Evaluation of Cosumnes River Dry Dam Alternative" (PDF). Sacramento County Municipal Services Agency. 2006-07-27. Retrieved 2011-10-06. 

External links[edit]