The San Francisquito Creek watershed encompasses 45 mi2 and includes a wide diversity of natural habitats and land use types. San Francisquito Creek is the last riparian free-flowing urban creek on the southern Peninsula of San Francisco Bay. The USGS monitors a gaging station of real-time data for the San Francisquito Creek that is located at Stanford University.
The creek begins as overflow from the Searsville Lake dam built in 1892 in Stanford University's Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which are part of the larger Coast Range. The creek flows generally northeastward for 14 miles from its source to its terminus in San Francisco Bay. Elevations range from approximately 762 meters (2,500 feet) to sea level. Rural areas and open space characterize the upper part of the watershed, which is hilly and rugged. In its lower reaches, the creek courses through densely populated cities located in relatively flat-lying areas. In places, the creek has carved a deep arroyo, with banks as high as 30 feet.
San Francisquito Creek is the boundary between Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and flows through parts of five municipalities -- Menlo Park, Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Portola Valley, and Woodside. It empties into San Francisco Bay at the city of East Palo Alto. The towns and cities in the watershed vary greatly in wealth from tremendous affluence to significant poverty.
The San Francisquito Creek watershed covers five USGS 7.5-minute quadrangles: Woodside, Palo Alto, Mountain View, La Honda, and Mindego Hill. The yellow boundary line on the study area map is an approximate watershed boundary.
The geology is complex and active. The San Andreas Fault zone crosses the upper part of the watershed and separates the Pacific and North American plates. Bedrock types include sandstone, shale, and serpentine.
The climate is Mediterranean, with cool, rainy winters and dry, warm summers. The vegetation includes redwood forest, mixed evergreen forest, oak woodland, chaparral, native and non-native grasslands, and wetland areas.
The creek and its watershed shelter many animal species, including pond turtles, red-legged frogs, tiger salamanders, different kinds of birds and bats, and several species of fish. The creek provides some of the best habitat for steehead trout in the South Bay.
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