Drakes Estero

Last updated

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.


Drakes Estero Wpdms usgs photo drakes bay.jpg
Drakes Estero

Location and description

Situated at 38°02′49″N122°56′31″W / 38.047°N 122.942°W / 38.047; -122.942 , [1] the estuary provides the main drainage for the Point Reyes peninsula. Seen from the air, Drakes Estero resembles a human hand, with Barries Bay, Creamery Bay, Schooner Bay, and Home Bay as the "fingers" and Limantour Bay as the thumb. The waters of the Estero flow into Drakes Bay between Drakes Beach and a narrow strip of land called Limantour Spit.

Conservation protections

Drakes Estero is a Congressionally-designated "potential wilderness area". [2] Although Drakes Estero is protected as part of the National Seashore, legacy agricultural uses such as dairy farms and oyster aquaculture have led to controversy over the water quality, conservation status, and proper uses of this body of water. [3]

Conservationists, including L. Martin Griffin, Jr. and oceanographer Sylvia Earle called for an end to the ongoing oyster farming in the estero. [4] [5] Senator Dianne Feinstein criticized the National Park Service, alleging that data used to support the non-renewal was flawed. [6] On November 29, 2012, United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar directed the National Park Service to allow the permit for oyster farming to expire, allowing the land and waters of the estero to return to their natural state. [7]

A lawsuit was filed on December 4, 2012 by Kevin Lunny, the owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Company, to declare the decision by Salazar null and void. [8] In February 2013, the 9th Cir. issued an injunction on the order to close Drakes Bay Oyster Company until it heard the company's appeal. [9] However, on January 14, 2014 the court declined to rehear the case. [10] The final court challenge to the order to remove the oyster farming was dropped in early December, 2014, with the removal of the operation completed in May, 2017. [11] [12]


Drakes Estero has been designated as the most probable landing spot of Francis Drake on the coast of North America in 1579 during his circumnavigation of the world and has been established as a National Historic Landmark. [13] [14] A historical marker has been placed on Drakes Beach near the Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center and monuments to Drake have been erected at the Drake's Cove landing site. The Drake landing is interpreted at the Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center and the Point Reyes National Seashore's Bear Valley Visitor Center.

Drakes Estero is a component of the Phillip Burton Wilderness. [15]

See also

Related Research Articles

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–Berkeley, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.

Inverness, California census-designated place in California, United States

Inverness is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) located in western Marin County, California. Inverness is located on the southwest shore of Tomales Bay 3.5 miles (5.6 km) northwest of Point Reyes Station, at an elevation of 43 feet. In the 2010 census, the population was 1,304. The community is named after Inverness, Scotland and was named by a Scottish landowner.

Point Reyes National Seashore protected national seashore in northern California

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.

New Albion Historical name of the United States Pacific coast

New Albion, also known as Nova Albion, was the name of the continental area north of Mexico claimed by Sir Francis Drake for England when he landed on the North American west coast in 1579. This claim became the justification for English charters across America to the Atlantic coast and soon influenced further national expansion projects on the continent. Today, Drake's landing site is known as Point Reyes, California, a marine environment which is the setting of several small towns, ranches, and Point Reyes National Seashore.

Drakes Bay United States historic place

Drakes Bay is a 4-mile (6.4 km) wide bay named so by U.S. surveyor George Davidson in 1875 along the Point Reyes National Seashore on the coast of northern California in the United States, approximately 30 miles (48 km) northwest of San Francisco at approximately 38 degrees north latitude. The bay is approximately 8 miles (13 km) wide. It is formed on the lee side of the coastal current by Point Reyes. The bay is named after Sir Francis Drake and has long been considered Drake's most likely landing spot on the west coast of North America during his circumnavigation of the world by sea in 1579. An alternative name for this bay is Puerto De Los Reyes.

Point Reyes prominent cape on the Pacific coast of northern California, USA

Point Reyes is a prominent cape and popular Northern California tourist destination on the Pacific coast. It is located in Marin County approximately 30 miles (50 km) west-northwest of San Francisco. The term is often applied to the Point Reyes Peninsula, the region bounded by Tomales Bay on the northeast and Bolinas Lagoon on the southeast. The headland is protected as part of Point Reyes National Seashore.

Tomales Bay

Tomales Bay is a long, narrow inlet of the Pacific Ocean in Marin County in northern California in the United States. It is approximately 15 miles (25 km) long and averages nearly 1.0 miles (1.6 km) wide, effectively separating the Point Reyes Peninsula from the mainland of Marin County. It is located approximately 30 miles (48 km) northwest of San Francisco. The bay forms the eastern boundary of Point Reyes National Seashore. Tomales Bay is recognized for protection by the California Bays and Estuaries Policy. On its northern end it opens out onto Bodega Bay, which shelters it from the direct current of the Pacific. The bay is formed along a submerged portion of the San Andreas Fault.

Bodega Bay United States historic place

Bodega Bay is a shallow, rocky inlet of the Pacific Ocean on the coast of northern California in the United States. It is approximately 5 mi (8 km) across and is located approximately 40 mi (60 km) northwest of San Francisco and 20 mi (32 km) west of Santa Rosa. The bay straddles the boundary between Sonoma County to the north and Marin County to the south. The bay is a marine habitat used for navigation, recreation, and commercial and sport fishing including shellfish harvesting.

Raymond Aker was a U.S. historian who was noted as an authority on the voyages of Francis Drake in the late 16th century. Aker served as president of the Drake Navigators Guild in California, which promotes Drake and his explorations. It was the work of Aker that helped ensure that Drake received credit for the discovery of Cape Horn, at the southern tip of South America.

National Register of Historic Places listings in Nassau County, New York Wikimedia list article

List of the National Register of Historic Places listings in Nassau County, New York

Inverness Park, California Unincorporated community in California, United States

Inverness Park is a small unincorporated community in Marin County, California. It is located 1 mile (1.6 km) west-southwest of Point Reyes Station, at an elevation of 148 feet.

Sir Francis Drake Boulevard Street in Marin County, California, United States

Sir Francis Drake Boulevard is an east–west arterial road in Marin County, California, running from the trailhead for Point Reyes Lighthouse at the end of the Point Reyes Peninsula to Interstate 580 just west of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. It is a main thoroughfare through the communities of Inverness, Point Reyes Station, Olema, Lagunitas-Forest Knolls, San Geronimo, Woodacre, Fairfax, San Anselmo, Ross, Kentfield, Greenbrae, and Larkspur. The road overlaps State Route 1 between Point Reyes Station and Olema.

In 1579, Francis Drake sailed out in the Pacific, then turned east seeking the Strait of Anián, or for a place to repair his ships.

Point Reyes Lifeboat Station United States historic place

Point Reyes Lifeboat Station, also known as Point Reyes Lifeboat Rescue Station, is a historic coastal rescue station, located on the Drake's Bay side of Point Reyes in northern California, United States. Built in 1927 by the United States Lifesaving Service, it is one of the best-preserved rescue stations of that period on the Pacific coast, retaining elements often lost, including the boat launching infrastructure. It is now a historic property managed by the National Park Service as part of Point Reyes National Seashore. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, and it was further declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989.

Phillip Burton Wilderness

The Phillip Burton Wilderness is part of the 111 sq. mile (288 km2) Point Reyes National Seashore located about 20 miles (32 km) northeast of San Francisco, California. Total wilderness land is 33,373 acres which includes a roadless "potential wilderness" area of over 8,000 acres (32 km2) and is the only designated wilderness along the California coast. The National Park Service manages the wilderness.

L. Martin Griffin American environmentalist

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.

Estero de Limantour State Marine Reserve & Drakes Estero State Marine Conservation Area

Estero de Limantour State Marine Reserve (SMR) and Drakes Estero State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) are two adjoining marine protected areas along the Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County on California’s north central coast. These marine protected areas cover a combined 4.04 square miles (10.5 km2), with 1.49 square miles (3.9 km2) in the SMR and 2.55 square miles (6.6 km2) in the SMCA. Drakes Estero SMCA prohibits the take of all living marine resources from Drakes Estero except the recreational take of clams and formerly the commercial aquaculture of shellfish pursuant to a disputed state water bottom lease and permit, which has been the subject of ongoing legal proceedings since 2012, when the lease was allowed to expire.

The Drake Navigators Guild is the historical research group which has used multi-disciplinary methods to research Francis Drake’s visit to the west coast of North America in 1579 and related maritime explorations. Founded in 1949, the Guild’s research supports the long-standing conclusion that Drake’s “Nova Albion” is at Drakes Bay, California. The Guild's efforts build on the research of Professor George Davidson (geographer) and others who have studied Drake's voyage. The Guild’s research has identified the specific careening site at Drake’s Cove within the Bay.

Sir Francis Drake's landing on the west coast of North America in 1579 has drawn the attention of scores of historians, geographers, linguists, anthropologists and other professionals. In addition, many history buffs have sought to locate Drake's New Albion. The accepted site for Drake's 1579 landing at New Albion is at Drake's Cove in Drakes Bay in Marin County, California. More than a score of ideas have been put forth—covering the coast from Alaska to Southern California. These ideas span the eighteenth through the early twenty-first centuries.

Drakes Bay Oyster Company

Drakes Bay Oyster Company was an oyster farm and restaurant formerly located at the shoreline and in Drakes Estero, a bay within Point Reyes National Seashore, on the West Marin coast of Marin County, in Northern California. In 2011, the lease for the business operation was not renewed at the direction of the United States Secretary of the Interior. After a two-year court battle, the business was terminated in December, 2014, and Drakes Estero was cleared of the offshore racks and onshore structures, with the work completed in 2017.


  1. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Drakes Estero
  2. The Point Reyes Wilderness Act. U.S. Congress. October 18, 1976.
  3. http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/assignment_7&id=5546326
  4. "Marin Voice - Oyster bill: What's at stake?" (PDF). Retrieved September 9, 2012.
  5. "GUEST OPINION: Feinstein is risking our Point Reyes heritage" . Retrieved September 9, 2012.
  6. "Feinstein 'stunned' by data manipulation allegations". KGO-TV. March 29, 2012. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  7. Salazar, Kenneth. "Secretary". Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Archived from the original on August 14, 2013.
  8. Fimrite, Peter; Berton, Justin (November 29, 2012). "U.S. evicting Point Reyes oyster farmer". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
  9. Bob Egelko (February 25, 2013). "Drakes Bay Oyster Co. gets reprieve". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  10. "Court denies Drakes Bay Oyster Co. petition to have its case reheard". Archived from the original on January 16, 2014. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  11. http://www.marinij.com/marinnews/ci_27061022/legal-stand-ends-drakes-bay-oyster-co-supporters
  12. https://www.nps.gov/pore/learn/management/planning_drakesestero_restoration.htm
  13. The Drake’s Cove site began its review by the National Park Service (NPS) in 1994 , thus starting an 18-year study of the suggested Drake sites. The first formal Nomination to mark the Nova Albion site at Drake’s Cove as a National Historic Landmark was provided to NPS on January 1, 1996. As part of its review, NPS obtained independent, confidential comments from professional historians. The NPS staff concluded that the Drake’s Cove site is the “most probable” and “most likely” Drake landing site. The National Park System Advisory Board Landmarks Committee sought public comments on the Port of Nova Albion Historic and Archaeological District Nomination and received more than two dozen letters of support and none in opposition. At the Committee’s meeting of November 9, 2011 in Washington, DC, representatives of the government of Spain, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Congresswoman Lynn Wolsey all spoke in favor of the nomination: there was no opposition. Staff and the Drake Navigators Guild’s president, Edward Von der Porten, gave the presentation. The Nomination was strongly endorsed by Committee Member Dr. James M. Allan, Archeologist, and the Committee as a whole which approved the nomination unanimously. The National Park System Advisory Board sought further public comments on the Nomination : no additional comments were received. At the Board’s meeting on December 1, 2011 in Florida, the Nomination was further reviewed: the Board approved the nomination unanimously. On October 17, 2012 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar formally established the Drakes Bay Historic and Archaeological District as a National Historic Landmark.
  14. "The Drake Navigators Guild Press Release" . Retrieved October 18, 2012.
  15. https://www.nps.gov/pore/learn/management/planning_drakesestero_restoration.htm

Coordinates: 38°02′51″N122°56′32″W / 38.04750°N 122.94222°W / 38.04750; -122.94222