The Matadero Creek watershed is entirely within Santa Clara County. Matadero Creek begins in Palo Alto’s Foothill Park and Arastradero Preserve. The creek flows under Highway 280, through Stanford agricultural lands south of Foothill Expressway, and through the developed commercial and residential areas of the Stanford Research Park and Palo Alto. One major tributary, Deer Creek, joins Matadero Creek just upstream from Foothill Expressway.
Upstream from Foothill Expressway, Matadero and Deer creeks are generally low gradient, with broad riffle-run zones and mud to cobble-sized substrate. Both creeks have reaches that dry out during drought conditions, but Deer Creek is much more ephemeral and susceptible to drying than the generally perennial Matadero Creek. The riparian zone is similar to that of San Francisquito Creek, consisting primarily of willow, bay, and oak trees, but is generally not as extensive (less wide).
Downstream of El Camino Real the creek has been channelized and concrete-lined for flood control. A mix of open space, low-density residential housing, and undeveloped private property covers the upland areas of the watershed. The downstream areas of the watershed have been highly modified and are either commercial or high-density residential.
In addition to the creeks, several distinct land forms are also found on Stanford lands: the foothills and alluvial plain that link the Santa Cruz Mountains with the San Francisco Bay.