Returning Tomales Bay Further Back To Nature (Wetlands Restoration)

For many folks who come and visit the Point Reyes area, Tomales Bay is a near-perfect retreat.  Quiet, peaceful and full of animals. But the wetlands at the south end of the Bay were turned into ranch land some 60 years ago.  But after years of planning and months of work by the National Park Service, today saw the high tide breach the levees that formed the ranch land.

The NPS has a goal of keeping the Point Reyes area as close to “natural” as possible and this project will bring back much habitat to the wetlands, especially the fish (sturgeon, steelhead, chinook and coho salmon) and birds (almost half of the North American bird species pass through the area).

If you want to see the restored areas, here is information from the NPS web site:

Where can we view the restoration area?

The restoration project area can be viewed from several vantage points in the Point Reyes-Inverness area. Some of the existing trails may be temporarily or permanently closed during construction, however, most trails will be reopened once construction is completed. Trails and viewing points include:

  • Lagunitas Creek spur trail: Southern portion of East Pasture adjacent to Point Reyes Station. Trail can be accessed from entrance to Green Bridge County park along State Route 1 just east of the Green Bridge. This trail winds through riparian habitat in the Green Bridge County park and then follows the edge of Lagunitas Creek out towards White House Pool area. During construction, this trail will be temporarily closed, and it will be rerouted slightly as part of Phase II work.
  • White House Pool County park: On the south side of Lagunitas Creek, the County of Marin Parks and Open Space District manages a small park on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard (Levee Road) that has a path that winds through riparian habitat as it follows the edge of Lagunitas Creek. Parking may be found at an on-site parking lot. This park provides several locations to view the restoration project area across the creek.
  • Olema Marsh Trail: On the opposite of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard or Levee Road is Olema Marsh. A trail starts in the parking lot from Olema Marsh and crosses the top of the shutter ridge as it follows the east side of the marsh, eventually ending at Levee Road. Olema Marsh is one of the areas that will be restored as part of Phase II. The trail will be closed temporarily during the construction period.
  • Tomales Bay Trail: For those wanting a longer walk and grander vistas of the restoration project area and Tomales Bay, the Tomales Bay Trail provides beautiful views of much of the Tomales Bay watershed. The trailhead is located off State Route 1 just north of Point Reyes Station. There is a small parking lot. The trail is approximately 1 -1.3 miles long. In future years, this spur trail will be extended to provide better views of some of the northern portions of the East Pasture and the shallowly flooded flats that attract hundreds of shorebirds and waterfowl in the fall and winter.
  • West Pasture North Levee path (Temporary): The northern portion of the West Pasture and adjacent undiked marsh can currently be viewed at a small informal spur trail that occurs on the West Pasture North off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. This path will be closed during construction starting September 1 and will not be reopened. In the future, the Park Service will develop a viewing overlook area to enable residents and visitors to view the newly restored marsh.

For further reading on the project:

[UPDATE: Here is a photo from NPS taken by Robert Campbell.  It shows the extent of the new Giacomini Wetlands (560 acres).  This area in the photo has been diked for over 60 years until last weekend.]