Coyote Creek (Santa Clara County)

Coyote Creek (Santa Clara County)

Coyote Creek
Arroyo del Coyote
Country United States
State California
Regions Santa Clara County, Alameda County
City San Jose, California
Primary source East Fork Coyote Creek
 - location 14 mi (20 km) northeast of Morgan Hill
 - elevation 2,630 ft (802 m)
 - coordinates  [1]
Secondary source Middle Fork Coyote Creek
 - elevation 3,400 ft (1,036 m)
 - coordinates  [2]
Source confluence Confluence of Middle and East Forks
 - location Henry W. Coe State Park
 - elevation 1,171 ft (357 m) [2]
 - coordinates  [3]
Mouth San Francisco Bay
 - location 8 mi (13 km) west of Milpitas, California
 - elevation 0 ft (0 m) [3]
 - coordinates  [3]
Length 63.6 mi (102 km) confluence to mouth[4]

Coyote Creek is a river that flows through the Santa Clara Valley in California, United States.


  • History 1
  • Watershed 2
  • Risk of Anderson Dam Failure from Earthquakes 3
  • Habitat and Wildlife 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Coyote Creek was originally named Arroyo del Coyote by Padre Pedro Font when the de Anza Expedition reached it on Sunday, March 31, 1776.[5][6]


Although it is called a "creek", Coyote Creek is actually a river draining 320 square miles (830 km2) and running 63.6 miles (102.4 km)[4] from the confluence of its East Fork and Middle Fork to southeast Coyote into San Jose. As Coyote Creek forms the eastern boundary of downtown San Jose, it winds its way into North San Jose. There, Miguelita Creek, Penitencia Creek, and Berryessa Creek are all tributaries. Coyote Creek then bypasses the Newby Island landfill and empties into the San Francisco Bay.

There is a chain of parks along Coyote Creek called the Coyote Creek Park Chain. The feasibility of a trail connecting the parks within this chain to Almaden Park was first examined in 1989.[9]

The river is managed by the SCVWD. In 1983, torrential rains caused by el Niño resulted in significant flooding of Coyote Creek in the Alviso neighborhood. The SCVWD, with advice from Santa Clara Basin Watershed Management Initiative (WMI) stakeholders, produced a stream stewardship plan for the Coyote Creek watershed in 2002. The plan includes over sixty projects to benefit flood protection, habitat enhancement, parks, and trails.

The Silver Creek Fault runs generally parallel to Coyote Creek.

Risk of Anderson Dam Failure from Earthquakes

Updated findings from an ongoing study of Anderson Dam were released in October, 2010 indicated that the dam could fail if a magnitude 7.25 earthquake occurred within 2 kilometers of the dam, potentially releasing a wall of water 35 feet high into downtown Morgan Hill in 14 minutes, and 8 feet deep into San Jose within three hours.[10] In response SCVWD has lowered the water to 54% full, which is 60 feet below the dam crest.[11] According to the SCVWD, remediation of the problem will likely require lengthy construction that would take up to six years and cost as much as $100 million.[10]

Because Coyote Reservoir Dam was built right across the Calavaras fault and there is a substantial risk of a seismic-triggered landslide on the east side of the reservoir at the dam site, an earthquake could cause failure of this dam upstream of the Anderson Dam, and the release of water could increase risk of failure of the Anderson Dam.

Habitat and Wildlife

Coyote Creek has historically, and still does support the most diverse fish fauna among the Santa Clara Valley Basin watersheds. It supports 10 to 11 native fish species out of the original 18. Species known to occur currently include Pacific lamprey (Lampetra tridentata), steelhead/resident rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), California roach, Hitch (Lavinia exilicauda), Sacramento blackfish (Orthodon microlepidotus), Sacramento pikeminnow, Sacramento sucker, three-spined stickleback, prickly sculpin (Cottus asper), riffle sculpin (Cottus gulosus), staghorn sculpin, and tule perch (Hysterocarpus traskii). Three species, the thicktail chub, splittail, and Sacramento perch have been extirpated from the drainage; the thicktail chub is extinct.[7]

A 1962 report indicated that Coyote Creek, from its mouth to the headwaters in Henry Coe State Park, was an historical migration route for steelhead trout. SCVWD studies have shown that Standish Dam and percolation ponds have posed barriers to outmigrating trout. Based on these results, Standish Dam has not been installed since 2000.[12] The on-channel percolation ponds constructed on Coyote Creek severely degrade steelhead habitat by harboring non-native fish predators, such as largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) which prey on salmonid fingerlings, and also by releasing warm water flows. Moving Ogier Ponds and Metcalf Percolation Ponds off-channel would significantly enhance rearing habitat for steelhead.[13]

Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) were present in the Coyote Creek watershed until the 1950s, suggesting that some spawning and rearing habitat was located in the watershed downstream from Coyote Reservoir which was completed in 1936 (blocking access to 310 square kilometers of upstream watershed). Historically, suitable habitat for coho salmon in the Coyote Creek watershed was likely restricted to the San Felipe Creek and Upper Penitencia Creek watersheds and possibly perennial reaches of Coyote Creek, and a few spring-fed tributaries upstream from Gilroy Hot Springs. Assuming the Coyote Percolation Reservoir was not a complete barrier to coho salmon; the construction of Anderson Dam in 1950 would have eliminated any coho salmon that occurred in the San Felipe Creek watershed that now flows into Anderson Lake. However, if the Coyote Creek Percolation Reservoir were a migration barrier, then only Upper Penitencia Creek would have provided suitable habitat for coho salmon after 1934.[14] San Felipe Creek currently contains habitat potentially suitable to coho salmon with low stream temperatures related to cool groundwater discharges in the Calaveras Fault zone.[15] During early June and late-July 1997, the senior author recorded water temperatures within the San Felipe Creek watershed within pools containing rainbow trout between 11-13.3 °C and 14.4-17.7 °C, respectively. Zones of groundwater discharge along the Calaveras Fault zone that traverses the watershed maintain cool summer water temperatures. Upper Penitencia Creek, which enters lower Coyote Creek near its mouth and drains the steep coastal hills to the east also may have contained suitable coho salmon habitat.[14]

The Chinook salmon run in Coyote Creek may be the last viable run in the South Bay, since the breeding salmon in the Guadalupe River have severely declined subsequent to installation of extensive concrete channels in the river in downtown San Jose, California by the SCVWD. These are “fall run” fish primarily adapted to the Sacramento and San Joaquin River watersheds. Since chinook salmon spawn in early winter and juveniles migrate to the ocean in their first spring, they are able to use habitats that turn very warm or have low water quality in summer.[13]

A 1962 California Department of Fish and Wildlife report indicates that golden beaver (Castor canadensis subauratus) lived in Coyote Creek historically.[16] This report is consistent with Alexander McLeod's report on the progress of the first Hudson's Bay Company fur brigade sent to California in 1829, "Beaver is become an article of traffic on the Coast as at the Mission of St. Joseph alone upwards of Fifteen hundred Beaver Skins were collected from the natives at a trifling value and sold to Ships at 3 Dollars".[17] Physical proof of Golden beaver in south San Francisco Bay tributaries is a Castor canadensis subauratus skull in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History collected by zoologist James Graham Cooper in Santa Clara, California on Dec. 31, 1855.[18]

A 1995 study showed high levels of toxic substances in receiving waters and sediments along urban areas of the creek versus undeveloped areas. This correlates to the density of storm drains suggesting that the pollution is from urban run-off.[19]

See also


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: East Fork Coyote Creek
  2. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Middle Fork Coyote Creek
  3. ^ a b c U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Coyote Creek
  4. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed March 15, 2011
  5. ^ a b Durham, David L. (1998). Durham's Place Names of California's San Francisco Bay Area: Includes Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Alameda, Solano & Santa Clara counties. Word Dancer Press, Sanger, California. p. 620.  
  6. ^ de Anza, Juan Bautista (1776). "Diary of Juan Bautista de Anza October 23, 1775 - June 1, 1776 University of Oregon Web de Anza pages". Retrieved Jan 5, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c "Coyote Creek Watershed, Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program". Retrieved Jan 5, 2010. 
  8. ^ J. David Rogers, Karl F. Hasselman. DAMS AND DISASTERS: a brief overview of dam building triumphs and tragedies in California’s past (Report). University of Missouri-Rolla. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
  9. ^ Feasibility Study for providing a trail between Alamden Park and the Coyote Creek Park Chain, Earth Metrics Incorporated, prepared for Parks and Recreation Department, City of San Jose, California, July, 1989
  10. ^ a b Sandra Gonzales (2010-10-13). "Study: Santa Clara County's Anderson Dam at risk of collapse in major earthquake". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  11. ^ Marty Grimes (2010-10-13). Preliminary findings indicate Anderson Dam needs seismic retrofit (Report). Santa Clara Valley Water District. Retrieved 2010-10-29.
  12. ^ Leidy, R.A., G.S. Becker, B.N. Harvey (2005). "Historical distribution and current status of steelhead/rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in streams of the San Francisco Estuary, California.". Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration, Oakland, CA. Retrieved 2010-01-05. 
  13. ^ a b Wayne D. Spencer, Sean J. Barry, Steven R. Beissinger, Joan L. Florsheim, Susan Harrison, Kenneth A. Rose, Jerry J. Smith, Raymond R. White (Dec 2006). Report of Independent Science Advisors for Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation Plan (HCP/NCCP) (Report). Retrieved Jan 14, 2010.
  14. ^ a b Robert A. Leidy, Gordon Becker, Brett A. Harvey (2005). Historical Status of Coho Salmon in Streams of the Urbanized San Francisco Estuary, California (Report). California Department of Fish and Game. p. 243. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  15. ^ Robert A. Leidy. Ecology, assemblage structure, distribution, and status of fishes in streams tributary to the San Francisco Estuary, California (Report). San Francisco Estuary Institute. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  16. ^ Skinner, John E. (1962). An Historical Review of the Fish and Wildlife Resources of the San Francisco Bay Area (The Mammalian Resources). California Department of Fish and Game, Water Projects Branch Report no. 1. Sacramento, California: California Department of Fish and Game. 
  17. ^ Nunis, Doyce (1968). A. R. McLeod, Esq. to John McLoughlin, Esq.Dated Fort Vancouver 15 Feby. 1830, in The Hudson's Bay Company's First Fur Brigade to the Sacramento Valley: Alexander McLeod's 1829 Hunt. Fair Oaks, California: The Sacramento Book Collectors Club. p. 34. 
  18. ^ "Castor canadensis subauratus". Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Retrieved May 10, 2010. 
  19. ^ Michael J. Kennish (1998). Pollution impacts on marine biotic communities.  

External links