• East view from Crissy Field overlook with old Coast Guard station on left and city on right

    Presidio of San Francisco

    California

Recent Sand Dunes

Sand dunes above Baker Beach

Sand dunes cap the bluffs above Baker Beach.

Will Elder, NPS

Recent sand dunes cover the Colma Formation and the Franciscan Complex over large areas of San Francisco. These dunes are composed of sand that has blown up and over the hills from Ocean Beach and Baker Beach.

The sand originated on the broad coastal plain of the Sacramento/San Joaquin River system, which extended from the Golden Gate to the Farallon Islands during the last glacial period, when sea level was as much as 300 feet lower than present. Sea level rose rapidly between 10,000 and 5,000 years ago, transporting the sand from this plain onto the beaches, from where it then blew over the coastal hills.

Did You Know?

Jonathan Letterman

Major Jonathan Letterman--after whom the hospital at the Presidio was renamed in 1911--was the medical director of the Army of the Potomac. A founding father of military medicine, Letterman organized forward first-aid stations, mobile field hospitals, and ambulance services during the Civil War.