Crissy Marsh

View of the Crissy Marsh with the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.
The Crissy Marsh with the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.

Quick Facts

Scenic View/Photo Spot

Today's marsh at Crissy Field is a re-creation of part of a much more extensive wetland that extended east, nearly to Fort Mason. The dunes surrounding the marsh are planted with coastal scrub plants that provide a beautiful carpet of flowers in the spring.

Efforts to restore this tidal marsh, which feeds into the bay, have been long and arduous because of the environmental damage caused by the army. It was used as the army's dump site for years before it was filled for the 1915 International Exposition. Thanks to the countless hours and uncompromising efforts of the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy and the National Park Service, the natural beauty and diversity of life of this environment is being restored.

Unsustainable Practice

During the late 1800s when the US Army took over the Presidio, they considered the wetlands as an unhealthy nuisance and attempted to fill the marsh with refuse, wreaking havoc on the natural wetlands.

In 1915, in preparation for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE), the city filled in 630 acres of tidal marsh, stretching a full three miles from Fort Mason to Fort Point. Thirty-one nations and several US states built exhibits to dazzle the public, all connected by 47 miles of walkways. The PPIE demonstrated not only major technological achievement, but also that San Francisco had rebounded from the devastation of the 1906 earthquake and fire.

Bringing the marsh back to life

Since the tidal marsh re-opened in 2000, visitors have seen a resurgence of over 120 bird species in the area. Jack smelt, bay shrimp and Dungeness crab, popular food sources for our bird friends, are also rebounding. Today the marsh covers 20 acres, stretching over a mile along the Promenade.

Come fly the Pacific skies

During the re-creation of Crissy marsh, while the water was still unconnected to the bay, many shorebirds that hadn't been seen in the area for decades began stopping by at this location.

Each year thousands of birds pass through the Presidio along the Pacific Flyway, the migratory bird equivalent of a cross-continent highway that goes all the way from South America to Canada. Birds use the marsh like a rest stop, to give their wings a break, grab a bite and let the kids go to the bathroom.

How does the marsh water look today?

Sometimes Crissy marsh is separated from the bay by the barrier beach for periods lasting several months because there isn't enough water in the wetlands to keep the channel open. Park scientists monitor the water quality in the marsh. When conditions are deemed too poor, a ditch is dug to reconnect the marsh to the bay.

Today the marsh is alive and thriving. Enjoy the view, and see if you can spot some of these friendly guys!

Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Presidio of San Francisco

Last updated: January 28, 2021