San Francisco Bay Spanish Discovery Site

Inscribed serpentine rock monument at top of Sweeney Ridge, with ocean in the distance behind.
This serpentine rock monument was erected in 1975 when the site received a National Historic Landmark designation. Photo by Douglas Atmore NPS

In 1769, Spanish leaders sent Captain Juan Gaspar de Portolá to lead an expedition to stake claim to southern and central California. Portolá and his party of sixty men (with a caravan of 200 horses and mules for riding and the pack train) came from San Diego in search of Monterey Bay, but from their overland approach, they failed to recognize it. The expedition members were hungry, lost, and sick after six months journey. They were assisted by Native peoples along the way, and the local Ramaytush Ohlone people warmly greeted and fed them.

For millennia the Ohlone people followed seasonal rounds of hunting, fishing, and managing the land for their needs. In 1769, about 2,000 Ramaytush Ohlone people inhabited the San Francisco Peninsula, living in a network of ten independent tribes. The Aramai tribe, of modern-day Pacifica, accompanied the explorers to the top of Sweeney Ridge, where the Portolá party became the first Europeans to see San Francisco Bay. The Spanish “discovery" of San Francisco Bay would soon mean the loss of Ohlone lives, homelands and traditional ways when Spanish colonization started seven years later.

Captain Gaspar de Portolá’s first sighting of San Francisco Bay has long been memorialized in the Bay Area. In 1987, Sweeney Ridge became part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Today there are two permanent monuments at the “discovery" site -- the first was installed in 1975, and the second eight years later.

The National Park Service strives to accurately and equitably portray this land’s diversity of people. Read the articles below to learn more about the impact of this “discovery”.

 

More about the Ohlone - Portolá Legacy

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    Tags: Portola 250

    Last updated: November 5, 2019

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