Last updated on November 5, 2022
The Village of Arroyo Grande is a quaint small town just south of San Luis Obispo off Highway 101. Arroyo Grande is one of the Five Cities, including Pismo Beach, Shell Beach, Grover Beach, and Oceano. The town’s agrarian roots echo with the ever-present roosters, the town mascots, who reside along the creek behind the stores on Branch Street. Today this lively town boasts cafes, curio shops, and wineries.
Arroyo Grande means big creek in Spanish and refers to the creek lying behind the town’s main street. Others refer to its name as “Big Gulch,” “Muddy Creek,” and “Big Ditch.”
Its fertile soils make Arroyo Grande Valley an important ranch and farm community. Presently you will find many wineries in San Luis Obispo County and part of the Arroyo Grande Valley AVA.
Prior to becoming part of the US Territory, Francis Ziba Branch discovered the area and eventually settled in the area to raise cattle. Hence the main street in town is called Branch Street. In 1862 the San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors established the township of Arroyo Grande. The city was incorporated in 1911.
Today Arroyo Grande reminds one of an Old West town with its swinging footbridge, old schoolhouses, and roaming roosters. The only difference is the youthful craft scene enhanced by breweries, wineries, and unique eateries.
Swing Forward from Past To Present
In visiting the Village of Arroyo Grande, one must walk the swinging footbridge that crosses the creek. The Short family built the bridge circa 1875 to connect their property that straddled either side of the creek. The bridge spans 171 feet and suspends 40 feet over Arroyo Grande Creek. It is the only swinging bridge in California. Take heed in walking the bridge because bouncing is part of the local scenery, especially if a cyclist crosses.
Santa Manuela Schoolhouse
After crossing the Swinging Bridge, visit the one-room schoolhouse built in 1901. Located initially near Lopez Lake, the schoolhouse was used till 1957. Since then, the schoolhouse has moved twice, residing at its current location since 1999.
Behind the schoolhouse is the “Barn,” the South County Historical Society’s Museum Annex. Inside find historical vehicles and printing presses.
Creek Walk and Roosters
Needing to get fresh air, take a pleasant stroll along the creek.
Not even folklore knows the origins of the roosters that liven the local color of Arroyo Grande. Did someone abandon them by the creek? Whatever the story, they are part of the local fauna. With a population of 25 – 50, including the hens, you are bound to see a few hanging out around town. You might even be lucky to observe them stopping traffic during their crossings. Needless to say, the roosters might be the cause of rush hour traffic in this small community.
Do not let your feathers get ruffled; just go with the flow and enjoy the entertainment of humor and laughter these fowl bring to the town. They are part of the charm.
Arroyo Grande Farmers Market
Every Saturday in the Village along the creek, from noon to 2:30 pm, farmers congregate to sell local produce. Of course, the stars of the show are the roosters who come for lettuce and fresh veggies. It would not be the Arroyo Grande Farmers market without the roosters. Even local artists create art to honor these town mascots.
Need more Rooster Love
If a rooster drink comes calling, stop in at the local tavern that takes its name from these crowing and swooning social entertainers, Rooster Creek Tavern. While sipping an Ol’ Town Flirt Martini, enjoy a Rooster Burger or Rooster Nachos.
This is an excerpt from an article I wrote for Wander With Wonder.