Corte Madera Creek (Marin County, California)

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Corte Madera Creek
Rowers on Corte Madera Creek.jpg
Rowers on Corte Madera Creek
Relief map of California.png
Red pog.svg
Location of the mouth of Corte Madera Creek in California
Country United States
State California
Region Marin County
Cities Ross, Kentfield, Corte Madera
Physical characteristics
Source confluence San Anselmo Creek and Ross Creek
 - location Ross
 - coordinates 37°57′58″N122°33′26″W / 37.96611°N 122.55722°W / 37.96611; -122.55722
 - elevation36 ft (11 m)
Mouth San Francisco Bay
 - location
Corte Madera, California
 - coordinates
37°56′30″N122°30′08″W / 37.94167°N 122.50222°W / 37.94167; -122.50222 Coordinates: 37°56′30″N122°30′08″W / 37.94167°N 122.50222°W / 37.94167; -122.50222 [1]
 - elevation
0 ft (0 m) [1]
Basin features
 - left San Anselmo Creek
 - right Ross Creek, Tamalpais Creek [2] , Larkspur Creek [3]

Corte Madera Creek is a short stream which flows southeast for 4.5 miles (7.2 km) in Marin County, California. [4] Corte Madera Creek is formed by the confluence of San Anselmo Creek [5] and Ross Creek [6] in Ross and entering a tidal marsh at Kentfield before connecting to San Francisco Bay near Corte Madera. [7]

Marin County, California County in California, United States

Marin County is a county located in the San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 252,409. Its county seat is San Rafael. Marin County is included in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.

San Anselmo Creek river in the United States of America

San Anselmo Creek is an eastward-flowing stream that begins on the eastern flank of Pine Mountain in the Marin Hills of Marin County, California. At its confluence with Ross Creek, it becomes Corte Madera Creek.

Ross, California Town in California in the United States

Ross is a small incorporated town in Marin County, California, United States, just north of San Francisco. Ross is located 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west-southwest of San Rafael, at an elevation of 36 feet. The population was 2,415 at the 2010 census. The town is bordered by Kentfield and Greenbrae to the east, Larkspur to the south and San Anselmo to the north.



The Coast Miwok lived for thousands of years in the Corte Madera watershed, gathering pinole and acorns, hunting, and salmon-fishing. Traces of the Miwok include seven mounds in what is now the Town of Ross. [8]

Coast Miwok tribe of Native American people

The Coast Miwok are an indigenous people that was the second largest group of Miwok people. The Coast Miwok inhabited the general area of modern Marin County and southern Sonoma County in Northern California, from the Golden Gate north to Duncans Point and eastward to Sonoma Creek. The Coast Miwok included the Bodega Bay Miwok, from authenticated Miwok villages around Bodega Bay, and the Marin Miwok.


Pinole, also called pinol or pinolillo, is roasted ground maize, which is then mixed with a combination of cocoa, agave, cinnamon, chia seeds, vanilla, or other spices. The resulting powder is then used as a nutrient-dense ingredient to make different foods, such as cereals, baked goods, tortillas, and beverages. The name comes from the Nahuatl word pinolli, meaning cornmeal. Today, pinole is generally made by hand using wood-burning adobe ovens and a stone and pestle, and is still consumed in certain, often rural, parts of Latin America. In fact, pinole is considered the national beverage of Nicaragua and Honduras.

Mound Artificial heaped pile of earth, gravel, sand, rocks, or debris

A mound is a heaped pile of earth, gravel, sand, rocks, or debris. Most commonly, mounds are earthen formations such as hills and mountains, particularly if they appear artificial. A mound may be any rounded area of topographically higher elevation on any surface. Artificial mounds have been created for a variety of reasons throughout history, including ceremonial, burial (tumulus), and commemorative purposes.

The Mexican government divided the northwest and southeast portions of the Corte Madera watershed into two separate land grants. The Rancho Cañada de Herrera, a 6,658-acre (26.94 km2) rancho that includes the areas that are now Fairfax, Sleepy Hollow, and part of San Anselmo, was granted to Domingo Sais in 1839. His family used the land for crops, sheep, horses, and cattle and fished San Anselmo Creek for salmon. [8] The Rancho Punta de Quentin, an 8,877-acre (35.92 km2) rancho established in 1840, was granted to Captain John B. R. Cooper, a sea captain from Boston, by Mexican Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado to repay a $5,250 debt. Cooper harvested timber and was also granted a license to hunt southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis), then prevalent at the mouth of Corte Madera Creek. [9] Rancho Punta de Quentin is now the towns of San Anselmo, Ross, Kentfield, and Larkspur. [8]

Rancho Cañada de Herrera was a 6,658-acre (26.94 km2) Mexican land grant in present day Marin County, California given in 1839 by Governor pro tem Manuel Jimeno to Domingo Sais. The grant encompassed present day Fairfax, Sleepy Hollow and a part of San Anselmo.

Rancho Punta de Quentin was a 8,877-acre (35.92 km2) Mexican land grant in present-day Marin County, California given in 1840 by Governor Juan B. Alvarado to John B.R. Cooper. The grant comprised not only the San Quentin peninsula, but also present-day Ross, Kentfield and part of San Anselmo.

John B. R. Cooper American pioneer

John Bautista Rogers Cooper. Raised in Massachusetts in a maritime family, he came to the Mexican territory of Alta California as master of the ship Rover, and was a pioneer of Monterey, California when it was the capital of the territory. He converted to Catholicism, became a Mexican citizen, and married the daughter of the Mexican territorial governor and acquired extensive land holdings in the area prior to the Mexican–American War.

Corte Madera Creek is named for the Spanish corte de madera meaning "a place where wood is cut". [10]

A Tasmanian immigrant, James Ross, who had made a fortune selling liquor to gold panners in San Francisco, bought much of the Rancho Punta de Quentin in 1840 for $50,000. [9] [11] Ross continued logging and also started a regular schooner route to San Francisco to transport the wood. His family established an estate at the site that is now the Marin Art and Garden Center. [8]


Pair of wood ducks (Aix sponsa) on the creek Wood Ducks on Corte Madera Creek Gary Leo 2010.jpg
Pair of wood ducks (Aix sponsa) on the creek
Steelhead trout in the creek Steelhead on Corte Madera Creek, Marin Gary Leo 2010.jpg
Steelhead trout in the creek

Corte Madera Creek is one of few streams flowing into San Francisco Bay with a steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) population. The best spawning gravels are in Upper San Anselmo Creek, Ross Creek, and Sleepy Hollow Creek. Fairfax Creek has a total barrier to fish passage at its confluence with San Anselmo Creek. Larkspur Creek is rumored to have had steelhead long ago, and the occasional steelhead is still seen in Tamalpais Creek. Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) currently utilize the watershed. [12]

Larkspur Creek river in the United States of America

Larkspur Creek is a short stream which flows 3.5 miles east to meet Corte Madera Creek in Larkspur, California just before reaching Richardson's Bay. The creek was named for the town of Larkspur, which was named by Georgiana Wright, a Briton and spouse of the 1887 developer of the area. She named the town of Larkspur for lupine flowers on the hills that she mistook for larkspur.

Chinook salmon species of fish

The Chinook salmon is the largest species in the Pacific salmon genus Oncorhynchus. The common name refers to the Chinookan peoples. Other vernacular names for the species include king salmon, Quinnat salmon, spring salmon, chrome hog, and Tyee salmon. The scientific species name is based on the Russian common name chavycha (чавыча).

Historically, Corte Madera Creek watershed supported coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) with recorded observations dating from 1926-1927, the 1960s, 1981, and the last sighting in 1984. [13]

The main non-salmonid fish species in the Corte Madera Creek Watershed include the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), California roach (Lavinia symmetricus), several species of sculpin (Cottus spp.), and Sacramento sucker (Catostomus occidentalis occidentalis). [14]

The creek hosts many protected species in addition to steelhead trout, including at least 17 plants, northern spotted owls (Strix occidentalis caurina), San Pablo song sparrow (Melospiza melodia samuelis), Ridgway's rail (Rallus obsoletus) and black (Laterallus jamaicensis) rails, and the salt marsh harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys raviventris). The 1,000-acre (4.0 km2) Corte Madera Marsh Ecological Reserve is recognized as an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society. [8] Just south of the marsh, there is a tidal channel named San Clement Creek where harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) haul out. [15]


The Corte Madera (aka Ross Valley) Watershed ranges in elevation from sea level to 2,571 feet (784 m) at the East Peak of Mount Tamalpais. The watershed covers 28 square miles (73 km2) in the southeastern quarter of Marin County and encompasses the towns of Larkspur, Corte Madera, Kentfield, Ross, San Anselmo, and Fairfax. The watershed includes Corte Madera, Ross, San Anselmo, Tamalpais, Sleepy Hollow, Fairfax, and Cascade creeks and Phoenix Lake. Larkspur and Tamalpais creeks drain directly into the estuary/tidal portion. [14] The watershed includes 44 miles (71 km) of stream channels. Ross Creek drains the northern slope of Mt. Tamalpais; San Anselmo Creek and its tributaries drain the northwestern portion of the watershed. The two channels join to form Corte Madera Creek, which continues through more than a mile of concrete-lined channel past the confluences of Larkspur and Tamalpais Creeks and into the salt marsh at the mouth. [8]

See also

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  1. 1 2 U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Corte Madera Creek
  2. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Tamalpais Creek
  3. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Larkspur Creek
  4. Durham, David L. (1998). Durham's Place Names of California's San Francisco Bay Area: Includes Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Alameda, Solano & Santa Clara counties. Word Dancer Press, Sanger, California. p. 44. ISBN   978-1-884995-35-4 . Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  5. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: San Anselmo Creek
  6. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Ross Creek
  7. "Corte Madera Creek Watershed". Friends of Corte Madera Creek. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Ross Valley Watershed". Marin County Watershed Program. Retrieved 2010-09-03.
  9. 1 2 Bob Battersby, Preston Maginis, Susan Nielsen, Gary Scales, Richard Torney, and Ed Wynne (May 2008). Ross, California - The people, the places, the history. Ross Historical Society. Retrieved 2010-09-14.
  10. Erwin G. Gudde, William Bright (2004). California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names. University of California Press. p. 92. ISBN   978-0-520-24217-3 . Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  11. John Dugan (2008-04-20). "New Book Tells History of Ross". Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved 2010-09-14.
  12. Robert A. Leidy (April 2007). "Ecology, Assemblage Structure, Distribution & Status of Fishes in Streams Tributary to the San Francisco Estuary". San Francisco Estuary Institute: 12. Retrieved 2010-09-14.
  13. Robert A. Leidy; Gordon Becker; Brett N. Harvey (2005). "Historical Status of Coho Salmon in Streams of the Urbanized San Francisco Estuary, California" (PDF). California Fish and Game: 219–254. Retrieved 2010-09-14.
  14. 1 2 Alice A. Rich (2000). Fishery Resources Conditions of the Corte Madera Creek Watershed, Marin County, California (PDF) (Report). Friends of Corte Madera Creek. Retrieved 2010-08-31.
  15. Corte Madera Watershed Resource Evaluation and Information Report (Report). San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board. 2009-01-01. Retrieved 2010-09-14.