Medano Creek is a popular seasonal stream enjoyed by all ages. On this page you'll find a short video, current creek conditions, forecast flow for the season, and what to expect month-by-month in an average year.
Medano Creek is no longer flowing at the Dunes Parking Area. Visitors may find a little water by hiking up the creekbed 1-3 miles, or by driving a high-clearance 4WD vehicle on the Medano Pass Primitive Road to Castle Creek Picnic Area, where there is 1-2 inches (2-5 cm) of water still flowing gently.
Mosquito season lasts from mid-June through July in an average year, but are less than normal this year due to drier conditions.
Check up-to-the-minute flow below.
2021 Remainder of Season Forecast
Below are estimated flow conditions for for the remainder of the 2021 season. Temperatures, precipitation, wind, and sun exposure can change the speed and quantity of runoff during the flow season.
In July, unless there are significant ongoing rains, the creek will retreat back toward the mountains and will dry up at the main visitor area near the Dunes Parking Lot. It may continue to gently flow at 1/2" - 1" (1-2 cm) deep along the eastern edge of the dunefield, near the Castle Creek Picnic Area. Castle Creek is accessible by high clearance 4WD vehicle on the Medano Pass Primitive Road. Visitors without 4WD may also access the creek in late summer by hiking approximately 3 miles (5 km) up the creekbed from the Dunes Parking Lot, or 0.7 miles (1km) from the Point of No Return parking area. Mosquitoes are usually still present around the low, warm water, especially in the first half of July, but begin to disappear 1-2 weeks after the water retreats. July is the warmest month at the park, with average highs in the low 80s F.
In August and September, the creek is still completely gone from the main visitor area near the Dunes Parking Lot. If dry condtions continue, it might not even flow near the Castle Creek Picnic Area. Castle Creek is accessible by high clearance 4WD vehicle on the Medano Pass Primitive Road. Visitors without 4WD may also access the creek late summer by hiking approximately 2 miles (3.5 km) up the creekbed from the Dunes Parking Lot, or 0.7 miles (1km) from the Point of No Return parking area. Mosquitoes are gone in late summer and fall.
Check Up-To-The-Minute Flow
See the current flow and trend of Medano Creek as a graph.
(Available spring through fall). The creek's flow on this graph is measured where it emerges from the forest and first enters the dunefield, not where it spreads out across the sand 5 miles downstream. This measurement gives an indication of the current flow relative to average peak flow. Peak flow in an average year is 40 cubic feet per second (cfs), typically occurring in late May or early June.
Médano is a Spanish word that means "sand dune". It is pronounced "MED-ah-no". In the original Spanish there is an accent on the é.
Medano Creek Activities
Depending on water level, visitors may do any non-motorized and non-mechanized activities in the creek, including splashing, surfing, wading, skimboarding, floating (works only in small raft or tube with a child at peak runoff), sand castle building, and sand sculpting.
To protect this riparian habitat, please do not disturb living plants or animals, and keep water resources clean.