• View of the Golden Gate Bridge, taken from the Marin Headlands, looking across the bay back towards San Francisco, seen in the distance.

    Golden Gate

    National Recreation Area California

There are park alerts in effect.
show Alerts »
  • Winter Surf Warning

    Every year people drown in the surf off Northern California beaches - don't let it be you! Be extra alert on park beaches during the winter storm season. Do not turn your back on the shoreline and watch for extra powerful “sneaker” waves.

Other Invertebrates (corals, sponges, worms, etc.)

Nature and Science

California Freshwater shrimp in the Lagunitas watershed

Larry Serpa

The more than 24 miles of ocean and bay that border the Golden Gate National Recreation Area house biologically diverse and complex ecosystems including natural islands, reefs, offshore rocks, straits, lagoons, mudflats, and beaches. Human-made habitat include piers, wharves, and shoreline rubble. Rocky intertidal areas are interspersed throughout Marin County at Stinson Beach, Slide Ranch, Muir Beach, Tennessee Cove, Rodeo Beach, Bonita Cove, Kirby Cove, and Lime Point. The intertidal zone along the coast of Marin County is generally steep and rocky, with small beaches located adjacent to watershed drainage areas, and not easily accessible to the public. In San Francisco County, intertidal areas are primarily beach or pier habitat including Fort Funston, Ocean Beach, Land's End, China Beach, Baker Beach, Fort Point, Crissy Field, Fort Mason, Black Point, and Aquatic Park. Alcatraz Island is one notable exception, with a rich rocky intertidal zone thanks to rubble that was placed in the water around the island many years ago for defense.

Slide Ranch, Muir Beach, Pirates Cove, Kirby Cove, Fort Point, and Alcatraz display a rich diversity of sponges, bryozoans, tunicates, limpets, mussels, anemones, and sea stars on their rocky headlands. Barnacles and isopods cover the splash zone. Sea caves abound in the park and have yet to be inventoried. At Rodeo Beach Bird Rock (a guano-covered sea stack), marine invertebrates include California mussels, and green anemone and purple seastars. Less common invertebrates include abalone and sea urchins. The commercially-harvested Dungeness crab breeds in the Pacific Ocean just offshore, and many Dungeness juveniles, as well as other species of shore crabs, can be spied in the park's rocky areas and mud flats.

The federally endangered California freshwater shrimp is endemic to Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties, but only remains in portions of 16 coastal streams. Lagunitas Creek in Marin County contains the most viable population of the shrimp and it is the only site occurring on protected lands. The shrimp is threatened by water diversions on Lagunitas Creek, watershed erosion, stream sedimentation, riparian vegetation removal, agricultural development, grazing, and urbanization.

Did You Know?

Horseshoe Cove at Fort Baker

During World War II, Fort Baker’s Horseshoe Cove was home to the Mine Planting Depot, where soldiers loaded dynamite into electrically-triggered mines that were then arranged in the water just outside the Golden Gate Bridge.