Pinole Creek

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Pinole Creek
Country United States
State California
Region Contra Costa County
 - left Duncan Creek
 - right North Creek, Fana Creek
City Pinole, California
Source Briones Hills
 - location 6 mi (10 km) west of Pleasant Hill, California
 - elevation 1,090 ft (332 m)
 - coordinates 37°57′3″N 122°9′34″W / 37.95083°N 122.15944°W / 37.95083; -122.15944 [1]
Mouth Chelsea Wetlands, San Pablo Bay
 - location Pinole, California
 - elevation 7 ft (2 m) [1]
 - coordinates 38°0′51″N 122°17′48″W / 38.01417°N 122.29667°W / 38.01417; -122.29667Coordinates: 38°0′51″N 122°17′48″W / 38.01417°N 122.29667°W / 38.01417; -122.29667 [1]

Pinole Creek is a creek in western Contra Costa County, California originating on Costa Peak on the west side of Briones Regional Park and flowing 10 miles (16 km) westerly through the town of Pinole, California,[2] and emptying into the San Pablo Bay, 4 miles (6.4 km) east of Pinole Point.[3] It is one of the last watersheds in the San Francisco Bay Area to retain a mostly rural lifestyle.[4]


The name Pinole is from the Spanish term for "parched corn", which the Mexicans ground for eating.[3] In 1823, the Mexican government granted 17,000 acres (69 km2) of land to a Commandant of Presidio San Francisco, Don Ignacio Martinez. The land grant was initially known as El Rancho de La Nuestra Sonora de Merced and later named Rancho El Pinole. He built the first adobe in Pinole Valley and brought his family to settle the property with livestock and orchards.[5]


The upper watershed contains large areas of open space and managed grazing lands, ranching and agricultural activities, and ranchettes focused upon equestrian activities. The lower watershed contains historic Old Town District of Pinole, and quiet suburban neighborhoods of Pinole, Hercules, and El Sobrante. The watershed follows the regional geologic northwest-southeast orientation (similar to the orientation of the Berkeley Hills), and is located just northeast of the Sobrante Ridge. The watershed is approximately 39.6 square miles (103 km2) in area, extending from Costa and Duarte Peaks (in the Briones Hills) at the headwaters, northwest to the San Pablo Bay just east of Wilson Point. The average annual rainfall for the Pinole Creek watershed is 610 mm (24 in), with 90% falling between November and April. There are twelve minor, locally-named tributaries and the gradient is 1%.[4] In 1965, the Army Corps of Engineers armored the creek channel between Interstate 80 and San Pablo Bay for flooding control. However, this removed riparian vegetation and tree cover needed for food, shelter and shade for fish and other wildlife.[5]


Biologists from the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) have observed Steelhead trout (Oncorhyncus mykiss) in the Pinole Creek watershed of multiple ages. Genetic studies by EBMUD in 1999 suggest that the trout are native Central California stock and not introduced.[5] Perennial flows are jeopardized by water usage in the upper watershed but the creek may have the best trout restoration potential in the East Bay because large portions of the watershed are in open space. However, the I-80 crossing may be a significant obstacle to upstream trout migration.[6]

Pinole Creek supports a mostly native fish assemblage including rainbow/steelhead trout, California roach (Lavinia symmetricus), Sacramento sucker (Catostomus occidentalis), Threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), Prickly sculpin (Cottus asper). Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) and Common carp (Cyprinus carpio) are nonnative fishes found predominately in the lower section of Pinole Creek, below Interstate 80.[5]

Invasive plant species such as Giant reed (Arundo donax), Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius), Yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis), Himalayan blackberry (Rubus discolor) and many others are established in segments of Pinole Creek.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Pinole Creek
  2. ^ TopoQuest map, USGS, retrieved July 5, 2008
  3. ^ a b David L. Durham (2000). Durham's place names of the San Francisco Bay area: includes Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Alameda, Solano & Santa Clara counties. Quill Driver Books. p. 133. ISBN 978-1-884995-35-4. Retrieved 2010-09-05. 
  4. ^ a b Pearce, S., McKee, L., and Shonkoff, S. (2005). Pinole Creek Watershed Sediment Source Assessment. A technical report of the Regional Watershed Program, San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) (PDF) (Report). Oakland, California: San Francisco Estuary Institute. p. 102. Retrieved 2010-09-05. 
  5. ^ a b c d Urban Creeks Council of California, and Restoration Design Group, LLC (June 2004). Pinole Creek Watershed Vision Plan (PDF) (Report). Retrieved 2010-09-05. 
  6. ^ San Francisco Estuary Watersheds Evaluation - Identifying Promising Locations for Steelhead Restoration in Tributaries of the San Francisco Estuary (PDF) (Report). San Francisco Estuary Institute. August 2007. p. 29. Retrieved 2010-09-05. 

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