Aptos Creek is a coastal watershed, which drains 25 miles of steep terrain in the Western Santa Cruz Mountains and enters the Pacific Ocean at Aptos, California, just east of Santa Cruz. Aptos was traditionally inhabited by the Ohlone Awaswas people. The creek’s main tributaries are Valencia Creek, Trout Gulch, Mangels Gulch, and Bridge Creek, although Mangles and Trout Gulch do not provide fish habitat. About half the watershed (52%) is under private ownership and land uses include urban, rural residential, orchards, and timber harvests. The remainder of the watershed is part of the Forest of Nisene Marks California State Park.
Aptos Creek is included on the federal Clean Water Act list of impaired water bodies due to excessive sediment and pathogens. Coho salmon in the Aptos watershed are state and federally listed as endangered and steelhead are federally listed as threatened. Preventing the extinction of coho salmon requires restoration of many key habitat attributes within the Aptos Creek watershed that are in poor condition.