Willow Slough, a seasonally irrigated agricultural watershed in the Sacramento River valley, California, was sampled weekly in 2006 in order to investigate seasonal concentrations and compositions of dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Average DOC concentrations nearly doubled from winter baseflow (2.75 mg L-1) to summer irrigation (5.14 mg L-1), while a concomitant increase in carbon-normalized vanillyl phenols (0.11 mg 100 mg OC-1 increasing to 0.31 mg 100 mg OC-1, on average) indicates that this additional carbon is likely vascular plant-derived. A strong linear relationship between lignin concentration and total suspended sediments (r2 = 0.79) demonstrates that agricultural management practices that mobilize sediments will likely have a direct and significant impact on DOC composition. The original source of vascular plant-derived DOC to Willow Slough appears to be the same throughout the year as evidenced by similar syringyl to vanillyl and cinnamyl to vanillyl ratios. However, differing diagenetic pathways during winter baseflow as compared to the rest of the year are evident in acid to aldehyde ratios of both vanillyl and syringyl phenols. The chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM) absorption coefficient at 350 nm showed a strong correlation with lignin concentration (r2 = 0.83). Other CDOM measurements related to aromaticity and molecular weight also showed correlations with carbon-normalized yields (e.g. specific UV absorbance at 254 nm (r2 = 0.57) and spectral slope (r2 = 0.54)). Our overall findings suggest that irrigated agricultural watersheds like Willow Slough can potentially have a significant impact on mainstem DOC concentration and composition when scaled to the entire watershed of the main tributary. ?? 2008 Elsevier Ltd.