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Bolinas: Overview

The town of Bolinas is located 10 miles (16 km) west-southwest of San Rafael, at an elevation of 36 feet (11 m). on the California coast just off of State Route 1 approximately 30 miles (48 km) north of San Francisco. It is bound on the northeast by Bolinas Lagoon and Kent Island, and on the south by Bolinas Bay and Duxbury Point. According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 5.8 square miles (15 km2), all of it land. The GNIS has cited archaic alternate town-names, including “Ballenas”, “Baulenas”, “Baulings”, and “Bawlines”.

image from the California Costal Records Project

Bolinas Lagoon

The lagoon is a back bay of Bolinas Bay on the Pacific coast approximately 15 mi (25 km) northwest of San Francisco. The trough in which the lagoon sits was formed by the San Andreas Fault which runs directly through it. The lagoon is separated from the main bay by a small spit of land, known as Stinson Beach, and the sand bar that encloses this lagoon is full of beachgoers and surfers on hot days, seeking to escape the heat and the urban Bay Area. California Route 1, the Shoreline Highway, runs along the eastern edge of the lagoon.

Bolinas Lagoon is on the list of wetlands of international importance as defined by the Ramsar Convention for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands.

The lagoon has a 16.7 square miles (43 km2) watershed; streams and canyons feeding into it include: Wilkins Gulch, Pike County Gulch, Audubon Canyon, Picher Canyon, Volunteer Canyon, Morses Gulch, McKinnan Gulch, and Stinson Gulch. Kent Island is located in the lagoon.

Because of Bolinas’ unique coastal position, the surf is protected from the winds and huge swells that make other beaches in Northern California too dangerous for beginners. In recent years, Bolinas has been discovered as one of the very best surf spots for beginning and intermediate surfers, and Bolinas has turned into a surf town. Most of the surfers in here are beginners themselves so everyone is accepting and helpful.

The egrets and herons nesting at Bolinas Lagoon are a main attraction of this preserve, but you can also find black-tail deer, bobcat, badger, gray fox, raccoon, brush rabbit, meadow mouse, as well as numerous land birds, reptiles, and amphibians. The Preserve’s frontage along Bolinas Lagoon also brings more than 60 species of water and shore birds into view-from sandpipers to osprey to pelicans-as well as some of the resident harbor seals sunbathing on sand spits.

Mont Tamalpais

Mount Tamalpais is the highest peak in the Marin Hills, which are part of the Northern California Coast Ranges. The elevation at the East Peak, its highest point, is 2,571 feet (784 m). The West Peak, the mountain’s second highest peak where a radar dome currently stands, is 2,560 feet (780 m). The mountain is clearly visible from the city of San Francisco and the East Bay region. Like the rest of the California Coast Ranges, Mount Tamalpais is the result of uplift, buckling, and folding of the North American plate as it slides along the Pacific Plate near the San Andreas fault zone. Major Mount Tamalpais rockforms include serpentine, particularly evident in outcroppings near the summit and on the north side. A number of serpentine endemic plants grow in the serpentine soils in this part of the mountain.

Wildlife: Mount Tamalpais provides one of the last remaining wildlife refuges in the Bay Area. Urbanization has invaded wildlife habitat, forcing many fauna in southern Marin County to retreat up onto Mount Tamalpais, Muir Woods, and the Bolinas Ridge. A wide variety of avifauna, amphibians, arthropods and mammals are found on Mount Tamalpais, including a number of rare and endangered species.

Infrastructure: Early wireless towers were constructed on the mountain in the early 20th century, only to be destroyed by one of the periodic hurricane-force windstorms.

Culture: Jack Kerouac depicted scenes of Mount Tamalpais in The Dharma Bums (1958). Track 3 of David Crosby’s (of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and The Byrds fame) first solo record release (If I Could Only Remember My Name, 1970), is titled “Tamalpais High (At About 3)”.


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