On its circuitous road to becoming a National Park, the Crissy Field tidal marshes went from virtually destroyed to a thriving ecosystem. For thousands of years, the Ohlone Indians revered the tidal marshes as sacred fishing and hunting grounds. Then the Spanish arrived, and the fate of the wetlands turned bleak. Not fit to build upon, the marshlands were ignored while a grand military base, The Presidio, was constructed in the vicinity. In 1846 the Americans took control of the military base and the tidal flats. Seeing no redeeming qualities in the soggy flats, they were drained and used as a dumping ground. Decades later, concrete was poured on top of the garbage to make the former marshland functional again, this time as an airfield. Besides being the terminus for the first transcontinental flight and a few other aviation firsts, the airfield saw air traffic become more sporadic as time past until all traffic ceased in the 1970s. This is how the dilapidated marshland, now know as Crissy Field, sat until it changed hands for the last time; The National Park Service took control of Crissy Field in 1994.
After San Franciscans weighed in on what to do with the new public space acquired by the National Park Service (NPS), it was decided to restore the area to its original form. The sprucing up began with the removal of concrete along with tons of hazardous materials. Opening up a channel to the bay was the next step and Crissy Field began to resemble the marsh that it once was. Thousands of cubic feet of sand were also brought in to rebuild a dune habitat that was also obliterated years ago. But it was the work of thousands of volunteers and the planting of over 100,000 native plants that made the wetlands recognizable again.
Back to looking like it did when the Ohlones used to wade in the waters, Crissy Field is a wonderful natural spot that aims to educate visitors about the history and beauty of the wetlands. The Crissy Field Center, celebrating its 10th anniversary, offers information and history on the wetlands as well as offering many school programs and summer camps aimed at teaching the vital role that salt marshes play in San Francisco Bay's ecosystem. With the return of the marshland came the return of migrating birds that had not used the area as a resting spot for over a hundred years. To aide amateur ornithologists recognize and enjoy the multitude of birds that find respite in the marsh and dunes, bird-viewing walks are now offered by the Crissy Field Center. Finally, a great way to take in the new, old Crissy Field is to take a stroll or a bike ride on the new beachfront promenade that accesses the area.
- Sunup to Sundown
- Crissy Field Center: Wednesday through Sunday: 9am to 5pm
- Muni Stop:
- 28 Muni Bus to Baker St. and walk to Crissy Field
- Location: 1199 East Beach, Presidio of San Francisco, CA
- Phone: 415-561-7690
- Website: www.crissyfield.org