Human history at Point Reyes extends back about 5000 years. The Coast Miwok Indians were the inhabitants of what we now call Marin and southern Sonoma Counties when European explorers first arrived at Point Reyes in the late 1500s. By 1850, dairy ranchers had arrived on the scene, lured by the near-ideal conditions for raising cattle. As maritime commerce increased in the San Francisco Bay area in the late 1800s, a lighthouse and lifesaving station were constructed at Point Reyes to, respectively, alert ships' crews of the trecherous point and to save the passengers of those ships that didn't safely navigate past the point. In the early 1900s, Guglielmo Marconi sited and commissioned the building of wireless telegraphy transmitting stations in the area which formed the foundation for the most successful and powerful ship to shore and land station on the Pacific Rim. Point Reyes National Seashore preserves historic sites so that modern-day visitors may hear the stories of and form connections to the people who have previously lived at or visited Point Reyes.
Oral History Program
The Point Reyes National Seashore museum collection currently holds over forty interviews compiled by the park historian between 1985–1994. The recordings preserve the first-hand knowledge, memories, and ideas of people involved in generations of dairy and cattle ranching, oyster farming, and fishing in the area. Other interviewees speak of Coast Miwok culture, the search for Sir Francis Drake's landing site, service at the Coast Guard station at Point Reyes, and Morse code radio operations at the historic Marconi/RCA radio stations.
A recent survey conducted by the Seashore yielded an expanded list of oral history programs and collections in Marin relevant to the history of the land and the development of the park. You can find more information by clicking on the names of the institutions listed below.
The museum continues to develop its oral history collection and program scope. If you or someone you know has a story to share about living in the area that is now Point Reyes National Seashore, please contact us to set up an interview.
Last updated: March 24, 2023