Malpaso Creek

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Malpaso Creek
Malpaso Creek is located in California
Malpaso Creek
Location of the mouth of Malpaso Creek in California
EtymologySpanish: mal (bad) + paso (pass or step)
Physical characteristics
 ⁃ location
Little Malpaso Beach
 ⁃ coordinates
36°28′53″N 121°56′17″W / 36.481395°N 121.938060°W / 36.481395; -121.938060Coordinates: 36°28′53″N 121°56′17″W / 36.481395°N 121.938060°W / 36.481395; -121.938060
Length4.25 mi (6.84 km) [1]
Basin features
ProgressionMalpaso Creek → Pacific Ocean

Malpaso Creek is a small, coastal stream 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Carmel in Monterey County, California, United States. It is generally regarded as the northern border of Big Sur in central coastal California.[2][3]


The creek and its canyon also defines the northern border of Garrapata State Park. The mouth of the creek is located at Little Malpaso Beach where there is a small white sandy beach, tide pools, and a narrow cave.[4][dead link] The American film actor, director, and producer Clint Eastwood has spent much of his life in this area and named his film company Malpaso Productions after the creek to the north of his 200-acre property on the former Victorine Ranch.[5][6]


The creek was named by the United States Coast Survey from the hand-drawn diseño of Rancho San Jose y Sur Chiquito.[7] The translation of the creek's name, "bad step",[5] or "bad crossing",[4] was based on how difficult it was to cross the abrupt canyon before a bridge was built across it in 1935.[4][dead link]


Located in the Carmel Highlands,[8] immediately south of Yankee Point, Malpaso Creek forms the natural northern boundary of the Big Sur coast.[9]

Beds of coarse sand and conglomerate containing coal occur in Malpaso Creek.[10] The abandoned Malpaso Coal Mine (or Carmelo Coal Mine) is located on the creek's north bank.[11]

Fauna and flora[edit]

The creek was formerly the southern limit of fast-growing Monterey pine before the species was planted widely.[12] Local distribution of Pelvetiopsis arborescens occurs in the rocks near the creek,[13] as does Rhodophysema elegans var. polystromatica. Callophyllis linearis occurs on rocks north of the creek, Gloiopeltis furcata and Callophyllis crenulata occur near the creek, Dictyota binghamiae occurs at the 1 foot (0.30 m) tide level near the creek, and Fucus distichus subspecies edentatus f. abbreviatus occurs in the creek's exposed areas.[14] Cucumaria curata has been found in tidepools on exposed rock areas near the creek.[15]

Along the creek's south shore, anglers fish for surfperch and rockfish.[16]

Highway 1 bridge[edit]

At a cost of $24,000, Malpaso Creek Bridge (No. 44-17)[17] was built in 1935 with an open-spandrel concrete arch design, similar to the famous Bixby Creek Bridge, located 8 miles to the south.[18] It is 210 feet (64 m) long and 24 feet (7.3 m) wide.[19]

The bridge is situated 4.5 miles (7.2 km) south of the Carmel River on California State Route 1.[20] Along with six other Monterey County bridges on Highway 1, Malpaso Creek Bridge has been determined to be National Register of Historical Places eligible. As a group, they are referred to as the Big Sur Arches, and may be the best works example of the California Division of Highways' Bridge Department.[21]

In popular culture[edit]

Actor Clint Eastwood bought five parcels totaling 283 acres (115 ha) on the south side of Malpaso Creek during the 1960s. He named his production company The Malpaso Company after the location. The company was established in 1967 by Eastwood's financial adviser Irving Leonard for the film Hang 'Em High, using profits from the Dollars Trilogy.[22][23] He later bought more land until he owned 650 acres (260 ha). The land stretched from the eastern side of Highway 1 to the coastal ridge. In 1995, Monterey County bought the land from him for $3.08 million, despite the fact that in July 1994 the county assessor showed the land's assessed value as only $308,682. The county put a permanent conservation easement on the Malpaso property.[24][25]


  1. ^ Google Earth. Accessed 18 April 2017.
  2. ^ Surfer Magazine (21 February 2006). Surfer Magazine's Guide to Northern and Central California Surf Spots. Chronicle Books. pp. 97–. ISBN 978-0-8118-4998-2. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  3. ^ Chatfield, Michael (May 5, 2014). "Big Sur Magic – Carmel Magazine". Retrieved 2017-11-01.
  4. ^ a b c Parr, Barry (1 July 2007). Explore! Big Sur Country: A Guide to Exploring the Coastline, Byways, Mountains, Trails, and Lore. Globe Pequot. pp. 22–. ISBN 978-0-7627-3568-6. Retrieved 13 January 2011.[dead link]
  5. ^ a b "Clint Eastwood Biography". Archived from the original on 13 October 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  6. ^ Eliot, Marc (29 September 2009). American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood. Random House, Inc. pp. 89–. ISBN 978-0-307-33688-0. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  7. ^ Gudde, Erwin Gustav (1998). California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names. Bright, William (fourth, rev. and enl. ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 379. ISBN 9780520266193. OCLC 37854320. Archived from the original on 2018-01-09.
  8. ^ McGilligan, Patrick (19 August 2002). Clint: the life and legend. Macmillan. pp. 162–. ISBN 978-0-312-29032-0. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  9. ^ Norman, Jeff; Big Sur Historical Society (4 October 2004). Big Sur. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 10–. ISBN 978-0-7385-2913-4. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  10. ^ California State Mining Bureau; California. Division of Mines and Geology (1921). Bulletin. pp. 84–. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  11. ^ "Unknown title". Robinson Jeffers newsletter. Occidental College, Robinson Jeffers Committee (90–100): 57. 1994.
  12. ^ McClintock, Elizabeth; Turner, Richard G. (April 2001). The trees of Golden Gate Park and San Francisco. Heyday Books. pp. 157–. ISBN 978-1-890771-28-7. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  13. ^ Smith, Gilbert M. (1993). Marine Algae of the Monterey Peninsula (Second ed.). Stanford University Press. pp. 643–. ISBN 978-0-8047-2628-3. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  14. ^ Hollenberg. Supplement to Smith's Marine Algae of the Monterey Peninsula. Stanford University Press. pp. 19, 33, 53, 55. ISBN 978-0-8047-4019-7. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  15. ^ Morris, Robert Hugh; Abbott, Donald Putnam; Haderlie, Eugene Clinton (1980). Intertidal invertebrates of California. Stanford University Press. pp. 137–. ISBN 978-0-8047-1045-9. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  16. ^ Parr, p. 148
  17. ^ "District 5, Post Miles for Location Identification". April 19, 1999. p. 3. Retrieved 13 January 2011.[failed verification]
  18. ^ Emory, Jerry (6 April 1999). The Monterey Bay Shoreline Guide. University of California Press. pp. 266–. ISBN 978-0-520-21712-6. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  19. ^ Hanchey, C. (March 6, 2009). "Malpaso Creek Bridge". Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  20. ^ Parr, p. 33
  21. ^ "Corridor Inventory-Executive Summaries". Caltrans District 5. December 2001. p. 4. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  22. ^ McGilligan, Patrick (1999). Clint: the Life and Legend. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0002555289.
  23. ^ "Clint Eastwood". The Biography Channel. Archived from the original on February 16, 2009. Retrieved June 11, 2008.
  24. ^ Pitnick, Richard (January 29, 1998). "Eastwood's Odello donation helped the movie mogul and the county". Retrieved October 25, 2016.
  25. ^ "Rancho Cañada Village" (PDF). Carmel Pine Cone. Retrieved December 7, 2016.