Carmel River State Beach Wildflowers. Carmel River, which arises high on the eastern slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountains and empties into the sea just south of Carmel, is a river of many moods. Some of its forks, swollen by winter and spring rains, can be capricious, frothy waterways as they course through the Ventana Wilderness.
Tamed by Los Padres Dam on the northern boundary of the national forest, the river’s descent through Carmel Valley is relatively peaceful. At its mouth, too, the Carmel River has differing moods and appearances. About May, a sandbar forms, turning the river mouth into a tranquil lagoon. During winter, the river bursts through the berm and rushes to the sea. Steelhead trout swim upriver to spawn.
At the north end of Carmel River State Beach is a brackish lagoon, where shorebirds feed. Carmel River Lagoon and Wetlands Natural Reserve is here, and even the most casual bird-watcher will be impressed by the abundance of waterfowl. Ducks, mallards and coots patrol the lagoon. Egrets and herons stand amongst the reeds. Hawks hover overhead. Bring your binoculars.