Average Gradient
40.00 ft/mi (7.58 m/km)
6.00 mi (9.66 km)
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Devoid of large and notable whitewater rapids past the gorge, the Big Sur River may mellow down a little, but it is still always an adventure to kayak. The entire stretch from Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to the Pacific Ocean is swift and somewhat unpredictable, but above all it is absolutely beautiful. The first several miles run through lush and vibrant redwood forests. Massive redwoods tower overhead while ferns, pieces of art, and beautiful cabins sit along the shore. Since this river can usually only be run during or after a large rain storm, there are typically many smaller waterfalls flowing into the river, and you can even kayak under some of them. Slowly the thick redwood forests begin to thin and more open sky can be seen above. At the same time, more strainers start to overhang the river. At around mile 5 there is a completely clear view of the mountains ahead as the trees disappear for a minute. This view indicates there is approximately a mile until the Andrew Molera parking lot and takeout. Sometimes the takeout is easy to miss because it is hidden in a long and fast stretch of river. Keep an eye out for the white buildings and trails on river right just before the parking area.

Several good put-in and takeout locations exist for this run. The best place for put-in is just after the Big Sur River Gorge within Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, although this requires payment of a state park fee. If boaters don't want to pay the fee or the park is closed to entry, the second best place for put-in is at the Highway 1 bridge crossing the Big Sur River. On either side of the bridge you can find parking and short trails with river access. The best location for takeout is the aforementioned parking lot at Andrew Molera State Park. Parking in this lot also requires a fee; however, visitors can park for free along Highway 1 across from the park entrance and carry boats out of the state park. If kayakers are looking for a longer run and perhaps kayak surfing, the Big Sur River can be ran all the way to the ocean, adding another mile or so. The downside of taking out at the mouth is a mile walk back to the parking areas.

Every year the Big Sur River changes due to large amounts of rainfall and debris washed down the river. Recently a fire tore through the Los Padres National Forest and will likely exacerbate issues of debris and runoff. All boaters should expect several log jams requiring portage during a single run. Locations of log jams also change from year to year, and sometimes so does the course of the river. Strainers are also a common feature and sometimes can cover a large portion of the river. Since there are few eddies and even fewer pools along the Big Sur River, it is important to stay alert and take extra caution.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)


Parking Pass

State Park Fee


Swift river. Quick run.


Log jams. Requires recent rain to run. Abundant strainers.

Put-in location (lat, long coordinates)

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Take-out location (lat, long coordinates)

Andrew Molera State Park



Overall difficulty


Route Characteristics: Character


Suitable for




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