The Salinas Valley is just south of San Francisco in the county of Monterey and is home to many charming small cities and towns including Bradley, Castroville, Chualer, Gonzales, Greenfield, Jolon, King City, Lockwood, San Ardo, San Lucas, Soledad, Spreckles and Salinas which is the county seat. The word Salinas means “salt marsh” in Spanish but the water has been drained from these fertile fields. Now this area which is about ninety square miles running south-east from the ocean-side city of Salinas to King City.
Geologically the Salinas Valley is also very interesting because it is located on a geological terrain that lies right on top of the San Andreas Fault. The land is on top of granite and it clashes with soft sedimentary soils to the west. The area is known for having earthquakes that register 6 or higher on the Richter scale roughly every 22 years.
Fresh water from mountain springs in the surrounding mountain ranges help irrigate the mineral rich land. The Salinas river that runs through the valley is also unusual because it is a “sand river” which means it only really shows a lot of water when it floods. There are also two reservoirs in the mountains, the San Antonio Reservoir and Nacimiento that help prevent salt water from the ocean from intruding into the fields and occasionally water is released to fill the Salinas River.
The Salinas Valley is called “The Salad Bowl of the World” because of the large amounts of vegetables grown there including lettuce, peppers, strawberries, spinach, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, olives and plums. It is also a designated American Viticultural Area which means that it has the sandy soils, temperate climate, foggy mornings and full sun that is perfect for growing grapes.
The salad bowl is also a great place to sample wines. If you want to cruise through beautiful countryside visiting winery after winery then traveling along Highway 101 and it’s side roads in central Monterey is a great idea. Famous wineries in the area include Paiso Vineyards, Ventana Vineyards, Smith and Hook Winery and Wrath wines. Most of the wineries are located between Soledad and Coburn on the 101 highway.
There are lots of interesting sites to see in the Salinas valley including the Agricultural and Rural Life Museum in King City which features exhibits from 19th and 20th century life in the area including an old blacksmith shop, schoolhouse and train depot.