A Brief History of West Marin
Point Reyes has been a significant location in the world for more than 400 years. Here is where Francis Drake claimed "New Albion" for England in 1579. It is the Gold Rush-era birthplace of the California dairy industry. Major technological advances in wireless radio took place here. And President Kennedy approved most of the area as a national treasure.
People have been attracted to the beautiful western part of Marin County forever. Coast Miwok Indians found the land to be rich in food and comfortable in climate. The early Spanish explorers noted the rich pastures and American settlers, most arriving with the Gold Rush, found a new kind of gold to reap-the golden delicacy, butter. The dairy industry at Point Reyes, considered to be among the biggest and best in America, soon became the gold standard in quality, as the lush coastal grasses and well-managed ranches produced butter that would be counterfeited by unscrupulous competitors.
The green grassy hills, thick forests, and ocean air brought visitors to Point Reyes early on, as a narrow gauge railroad transported people from San Francisco to new towns like Point Reyes Station, Olema, Inverness, and Marshall. All these tiny burgs offered hotels, camping, horse-drawn excursions, and the peace and quiet that most city dwellers sought. As stage coaches and trains gave way to automobiles, people drove out for the weekend, to eat oysters, fish in the creeks and bay, swim and sail, and hike all over the vast hills.
As early as the 1930s, the National Park Service saw Point Reyes as a treasure, but within decades it was threatened by suburban development. In the 1950s and 1960s logging trucks roared up Inverness Ridge as streets were laid out along Limantour Beach; these would be served by a network of freeways and the requisite shopping centers. The creation of Point Reyes National Seashore in 1962, and its companion Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 1972, saved the place for generations to come. Coupled with restrictive zoning on agricultural lands and a world-famous fresh food culture, West Marin remains a beautiful, untouched haven for people harried by a fast paced world.