San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Pacific Southwest Region

San Pablo Bay NWR History

Less than 150 years ago, the Napa-Sonoma marshes surrounding San Pablo Bay comprised one of the most extensive wetland systems along the Pacific coast. This system provided habitat for millions of migrating waterfowl and shorebirds as well as resident wildlife. Plants specialized to live in aquatic habitats grew bountifully, sheltering and feeding a rich diversity of species.

Rapid development of the area began with the discovery of gold in the Sierra Nevada foothills in the 1850s. Hydraulic mining operations contributed huge amounts of sediment to the San Francisco Bay Estuary. For the next hundred years, the marshes were filled, diked, or drained to support the bay's development as a major center of commerce.

Today, only 15% of the bay's historic tidal lands remains. Since the 1960s, conservation agencies, non-profit organizations, and local grassroots efforts have worked to protect the Bay. Largely comprised of thousands of acres of tidelands leased from the California State Lands Commission, the refuge's ultimate plans include protection and conservation of more than 20,000 acres of critical wildlife in northern San Pablo Bay.


For more information, contact:
San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge
7715 Lakeville Hwy
Petaluma, CA   94954
Phone Number: 707-769-4200

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Last updated: January 29, 2012