A technique is presented for estimating suspended sediment concentrations of turbid coastal waters with remotely sensed multi-spectral data. The method improves upon many standard techniques, since it incorporates analyses of multiple wavelength bands (four for Sea-viewing Wide Field of view Sensor (SeaWiFS)) and a nonlinear calibration, which produce highly accurate results (expected errors are approximately ±10%). Further, potential errors produced by erroneous atmospheric calibration in excessively turbid waters and influences of dissolved organic materials, chlorophyll pigments and atmospheric aerosols are limited by a dark pixel subtraction and removal of the violet to blue wavelength bands. Results are presented for the Santa Barbara Channel, California where suspended sediment concentrations ranged from 0–200+ mg l−1 (±20 mg l−1) immediately after large river runoff events. The largest plumes were observed 10–30 km off the coast and occurred immediately following large El Niño winter floods.