Aramburu Island

Last updated

Aramburu Island
Aramburu Island, California.JPG
Aerial image of Aramburu Island, taken looking toward the east, in September 2019.
Location Map San Francisco Bay Area.png
Red pog.svg
Aramburu Island
USA California location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Aramburu Island
Usa edcp location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Aramburu Island
Location Northern California
Coordinates 37°53′29″N122°30′8″W / 37.89139°N 122.50222°W / 37.89139; -122.50222
Adjacent bodies of water Richardson Bay
Area17 acres (6.9 ha) [1]
United States
State California
County Marin

Aramburu Island (ah-ram-boo-ru) [2] is a 17-acre (6.9 ha) island in Richardson Bay, Marin County, California. It, along with Strawberry Spit, came to exist in the 1950s and 1960s as a consequence of dumping dredged material from nearby developments into the bay. In the 1980s, the northern part of the landmass was cut off from Strawberry Spit on the directions of a Marin County supervisor to prevent housing from being constructed there, creating Aramburu Island. While natural erosion processes caused it to shrink slowly over the course of subsequent decades, a 2010s restoration effort added large amounts of material to prevent further erosion, and turned it into "sustainable bird habitat". [3] [4]


Location and access

The northern side of Aramburu Island, viewed from the south in 2016. Strawberry is visible in the background, across Richardson Bay. Richardson Bay with Aramburu Island.jpg
The northern side of Aramburu Island, viewed from the south in 2016. Strawberry is visible in the background, across Richardson Bay.

Aramburu Island is in Richardson Bay, [2] an embayment of San Francisco Bay to the north and northwest of Golden Gate. Its coordinates are 37°53′29″N122°30′8″W / 37.89139°N 122.50222°W / 37.89139; -122.50222 (Aramburu Island) . Across the waters of Richardson Bay, it is surrounded on the south, west, north, and northeast by the unincorporated community of Strawberry. Approximately one mile (1.6 km) to the east lies the Tiburon Peninsula (and Tiburon itself). To the south, a channel separates it from Strawberry Spit. [2] The island is not easily visible from nearby roads; according to Marin Magazine, "the only folks who have a view of Aramburu Island are some of the residents of Strawberry". [2]

The island is a nature reserve, and accordingly, access is restricted; it is accessible only by boat. [4] In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic in California began to present a transmission risk for gatherings; with many indoor recreation options closed, crowds gathered instead in public parks, violating social distancing guidelines. In light of this, the Public Health Division of the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services issued an order to shut down all outdoor parks and open space preserves on March 22 of that year. [5] This order was modified on March 31, to make it illegal to drive to any park or recreational area. [6] The order was lifted for some parks on May 17, [7] and for all parks on June 1. [8] During the months of May-August, Aramburu Island and its surrounding areas became a popular hangout spot for teenagers.


The land that now constitutes Aramburu Island and Strawberry Spit was created between the late 1950s [2] and early 1960s, from large amounts of waste material being dumped into Richardson Bay. [9] This material came from dredging operations to enlarge canals, as well as from housing developments on Strawberry Point. [9]

Aramburu Island and Strawberry Spit, while formed as one contiguous landmass, were separated in the early 1980s. [2] Al Aramburu, a Marin County supervisor, ordered a channel to be cut between Strawberry Spit and what then became Aramburu Island, because he "did not think any homes should be built" there. [2] When Aramburu Island was initially cut off from Strawberry Spit, it comprised 34 acres (14 ha). [2] However, over the course of the next several decades, coastal erosion processes caused the eastern shore of the island to recede by more than 130 feet (40 m), reducing it to its present area of 17 acres (6.9 ha). [9] The resulting landmass was described as "decidedly unromantic" and "really just a giant pile of dirt". [10]


In November 2007, a collision between the container ship M/V Cosco Busan and the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge resulted in a 53,569-U.S.-gallon (202,780 L) [1] fuel oil spill; it is estimated that nearly seven thousand birds were killed as a result. [11] Subsequently, the ship's owner and operator reached a settlement in which more than $32 million was to fund habitat restoration projects in the area. [11] Of this, approximately $2.4 million (equivalent to $3 million in 2021) went towards Aramburu Island. [10] Subsequent work, constituting a $4.2 million (equivalent to $5.24 million in 2021) overall expense, [2] involved the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Marin County, the Sewer Agency of Southern Marin, and the Marin Community Foundation. [2]

At the time, Aramburu Island, along with nearby Pickleweed Island and Unnamed Island, were "virtually unknown". [12] However, in 2011, Marin County began a project to engineer a new beach, using gravel barriers that were more resistant to erosion. [9] The work, which began in the summer, [2] started with cutting back slopes on the east side of the island that had become unstable. [9] Then, a "ramp" was constructed using materials which "closely matched the Bay's natural beaches", including gravel, sand, ground oyster shells, and eucalyptus logs from local sources. [9] Invasive plants that had come to occupy roughly 60 percent of the island [13] were cleared; [9] they were replaced with plants selected by ecologists and seeded in plastic tubes by high school students. [2] The project, which involved moving multiple tons of material, removing large amounts of vegetation, replacing them with over 36,000 plants selected by ecologists, and taking active measures to drive away Canada geese, [14] [1] was described as "letting nature take its course". [9] In 2012, the project was estimated to be completed by 2017. [2] In December 2017, volunteers from age 12 and up were still being sought to help in converting the island into a shorebird habitat. [15] In June 2020, an algae bloom "choked" miles of shoreline around Strawberry Point, and "carpeted" the shores of Aramburu Island. [16]


From the late 1960s onward, harbor seals occasionally used the island as a haul-out site, and in 1975, it served as a refuge to an estimated 30 percent of San Francisco bay's harbor seal population. [17] However, the last time a seal was seen on the island was 1985. [10] Outcomes attributed to the habitat restoration project started in 2011 included doubling the number of birds observed on the island, and causing black oystercatchers to live on the island. [9] Between April and October 2012, a cooperative report between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Audubon Society found that there had also been black-necked stilts and killdeer raising chicks on the island. [14] The report also detailed attempts at expulsion of Canada geese from the island. [14] While previous work on the island's cliffs was unsuccessful in driving away the birds, a variety of other contraptions were used, including a grid of precisely-placed strings, and a sculpture of a coyote. [14] Unlike such removal attempts performed elsewhere, these attempts did not involve explosives or loudspeakers. [18] [14]

In 2018, a joint study by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and the Richardson Bay Audubon Center investigated the island and surrounding Richardson Bay for the presence of Atlantic oyster drills, described as "one of the most voracious alien species in San Francisco Bay". [19] The study was part of an effort to restore Olympia oysters to the region by halting the invasive snails' "rampage" through the bay. [19]

Related Research Articles

Mill Valley, California City in California, United States

Mill Valley is a city in Marin County, California, United States, located about 14 miles (23 km) north of San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge and 52 miles from Napa Valley. The population was 13,903 at the 2010 census.

Strawberry, Marin County, California CDP in California, United States

Strawberry is a census-designated place (CDP) and an unincorporated district of Marin County, California, United States. Strawberry shares a ZIP code (94941) with Mill Valley and falls within its school districts, however, it is considered within the sphere of influence of the Town of Tiburon. It is separated from Mill Valley by U.S. Route 101. The population was 5,393 at the 2010 census.

Grand Isle, Louisiana Town in Louisiana, United States

Grand Isle Was a town in Jefferson Parish in the U.S. state of Louisiana, located on a barrier island of the same name in the Gulf of Mexico. The island is at the mouth of Barataria Bay where it meets the gulf. The town of Grand Isle is statistically part of the New Orleans−Metairie−Kenner metropolitan statistical area, though it is not connected to New Orleans' continuous urbanized area.

Tangier, Virginia Town and island in Chesapeake Bay

Tangier is a town in Accomack County, Virginia, United States, on Tangier Island in Chesapeake Bay. The population was 727 at the 2010 census. Since 1850, the island's landmass has been reduced by 67%. Under the mid-range sea level rise scenario, much of the remaining landmass is expected to be lost in the next 50 years and the town will likely need to be abandoned.

Point Reyes National Seashore Park preserve in California, United States

Point Reyes National Seashore is a 71,028-acre (287.44 km2) park preserve located on the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County, California. As a national seashore, it is maintained by the US National Park Service as an important nature preserve. Some existing agricultural uses are allowed to continue within the park. Clem Miller, a US Congressman from Marin County wrote and introduced the bill for the establishment of Point Reyes National Seashore in 1962 to protect the peninsula from development which was proposed at the time for the slopes above Drake's Bay. All of the park's beaches were listed as the cleanest in the state in 2010.

Drakes Estero

Drakes Estero is an expansive estuary in the Point Reyes National Seashore of Marin County on the Pacific coast of northern California in the United States, approximately 25 miles (40 km) northwest of San Francisco.

Spencer Spit State Park

Spencer Spit State Park is a public recreation area ran under the Washington State Parks. It covers one hundred and thirty-eight acres (56 ha) on the eastern shore of Lopez Island in San Juan County, Washington. It overlooks the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The state park features two sand spits that enclose a salt chuck lagoon that provides a migratory stop for waterfowl, including Bonaparte's gulls. Other local fauna include great blue herons and kingfishers.

Humboldt Bay Bay on the North Coast of California

Humboldt Bay is a natural bay and a multi-basin, bar-built coastal lagoon located on the rugged North Coast of California, entirely within Humboldt County, United States. It is the largest protected body of water on the West Coast between San Francisco Bay and Puget Sound, the second-largest enclosed bay in California, and the largest port between San Francisco and Coos Bay, Oregon. The largest city adjoining the bay is Eureka, the regional center and county seat of Humboldt County, followed by the city of Arcata. These primary cities, together with adjoining unincorporated communities and several small towns, comprise a Humboldt Bay Area total population of nearly 80,000 people. This comprises nearly 60% of the population of Humboldt County. The bay is home to more than 100 plant species, 300 invertebrate species, 100 fish species, and 200 bird species. In addition, the bay and its complex system of marshes and grasses support hundreds of thousands of migrating and local shore birds. Commercially, this second-largest estuary in California is the site of the largest oyster production operations on the West Coast, producing more than half of all oysters farmed in California.

Rosses Point Peninsula and village in County Sligo, Ireland

Rosses Point is a village in County Sligo, Ireland and also the name of the surrounding peninsula.

Hog Island (Tomales Bay)

Hog Island is an island roughly 2 acres (0.8 ha) in size located approximately 5 mi (8 km) south of the entrance to Tomales Bay in the West Marin area of Marin County, California.

Richardson Bay arm of San Francisco Bay

Richardson Bay is a shallow, ecologically rich arm of San Francisco Bay, managed under a Joint Powers Agency of four northern California cities. The 911-acre (369 ha) Richardson Bay Sanctuary was acquired in the early 1960s by the National Audubon Society. The bay was named for William A. Richardson, early 19th century sea captain and builder in San Francisco. It contains both Strawberry Spit and Aramburu Island.

Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge

The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge is located near the town of Sequim in Clallam County in the U.S. state of Washington, on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The refuge is composed of 772.52 acres (312.63 ha) which include Dungeness Spit, Graveyard Spit, and portions of Dungeness Bay and Harbor. Dungeness Spit is one of the world's longest natural sand spits, 6.8 miles (10.9 km) long and very narrow. A lighthouse, the New Dungeness Light, built in 1857, is located near the end of the spit. Access to Dungeness Spit is through a Clallam County Park which has hiking trails, picnic areas, and a campground. On January 20, 1915, it was designated as a National Wildlife Refuge by President Woodrow Wilson. Dungeness is one of six refuges in the Washington Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Strawberry Lagoon

Strawberry Lagoon is an inlet within Richardson Bay, Marin County, California, United States. This location, particularly on Strawberry Spit, is a winter haul-out area for the Harbor seal. Pressures of urban development at Strawberry Point along with increases in small boat traffic have diminished the use of this lagoon for seal haul out, noted as early as 1990.

Strawberry Spit Artificial island in California

Strawberry Spit is a small artificial island in the San Francisco Bay's Richardson's Bay embayment of Strawberry Lagoon. It is still referred to as Strawberry Spit, although it no longer is technically a spit.

Benjamin and Hilarita Lyford House United States historic place

The Lyford House is a Victorian house located in Tiburon, California. Built in 1876, the house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

L. Martin Griffin

L. Martin Griffin, widely known as Marty Griffin, is an American environmentalist and conservationist in Northern California and author of the book Saving the Marin–Sonoma Coast. He has also been a doctor, director of the Sonoma Developmental Center, head of the Marin Audubon Society, board member of the Marin Municipal Water District, and owner of Hop Kiln Winery in Sonoma County.

<i>Cosco Busan</i> oil spill

The Cosco Busan oil spill occurred at 08:30 UTC-8 on 7 November 2007 between San Francisco and Oakland, California, in which 53,569 US gal (202,780 L) of IFO-380 heavy fuel oil, sometimes referred to as "bunker fuel", spilled into San Francisco Bay after the container ship Cosco Busan, operated by Fleet Management Limited struck Delta Tower of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge in thick fog.

Living shorelines

Living shorelines are a relatively new approach for addressing shoreline erosion and protecting marsh areas. Unlike traditional structures such as bulkheads or seawalls that worsen erosion, living shorelines incorporate as many natural elements as possible which create more effective buffers in absorbing wave energy and protecting against shoreline erosion. The process of creating a living shoreline is referred to as soft engineering, which utilizes techniques that incorporate ecological principles in shoreline stabilization. The natural materials used in the construction of living shorelines create and maintain valuable habitats. Structural and organic materials commonly used in the construction of living shorelines include sand, wetland plants, sand fill, oyster reefs, submerged aquatic vegetation, stones and coir fiber logs.

Strawberry Island (New York)

Strawberry Island is an uninhabited island in the Niagara River located in Erie County, New York, southeast of Grand Island. The five-acre (2 ha) island is owned by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and is managed as a fish and wildlife preserve.

Lea-Hutaff Island

Lea-Hutaff Island is a 5,641-acre (22.83 km2) uninhabited barrier island and marsh system located off the coast of North Carolina. Lea Island State Natural Area is a 25-acre (0.10 km2) North Carolina State Park on the northern end of the island.


  1. 1 2 3 "PACIFIC SOUTHWEST REGION: Aramburu Island From Dump Site to Bird Sanctuary". U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Archived from the original on December 30, 2020. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 "An Ecological Makeover". Marin Magazine. March 19, 2012. Archived from the original on March 18, 2021. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  3. "Aramburu Island". Richardson Bay Audubon Center. January 22, 2016. Archived from the original on January 19, 2021. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  4. 1 2 "Aramburu Island – Marin County Parks". Archived from the original on October 29, 2020. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  5. "All Marin Parks Now Closed Due to Large Crowds". Funcheap SF. Archived from the original on March 18, 2021. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Bay Island Gets a Facelift With a Little Help From the Tides". KQED. Archived from the original on January 18, 2021. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  10. 1 2 3 Fimrite, Peter (January 2, 2012). "Richardson Bay atoll renovated as nature preserve". SFGATE. Archived from the original on March 9, 2021. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  11. 1 2 "M/V Cosco Busan | Oil Spills | Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program. Archived from the original on December 4, 2020. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  12. "Cosco Busan spill leads to Richardson Bay islands' revival". Marin Independent Journal. November 6, 2017. Archived from the original on August 16, 2018. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  13. "Rare bird turns up on restored island in Richardson Bay". The Mercury News. July 30, 2014. Archived from the original on May 3, 2017. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 "Aramburu Island Shoreline Protection and Ecological Enhancement: 2012 Report". California Department of Fish and Wildlife. October 31, 2012. Archived from the original on March 18, 2021. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  15. "Help with enhancement projects for Aramburu Island, more". Marin Independent Journal. December 15, 2017. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  16. Lang, Gretchen (June 16, 2020). "Algae bloom turns Richardson Bay waters green". The Ark. Archived from the original on March 18, 2021. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  17. George, Aleta. "Restoring Aramburu Island". Bay Nature. Archived from the original on August 4, 2020. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  18. "GooseBuster to the Rescue: How to Get Rid of Canada Geese". Archived from the original on 2020-10-21. Retrieved 2021-03-17.
  19. 1 2 Fimrite, Peter (August 18, 2018). "Scientists battle alien snails in SF Bay in effort to restore native oysters". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on October 20, 2020. Retrieved March 17, 2021.