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1781 Cañizares Map of San Francisco Bay

Benicia State Recreation Area (SRA) is a protected tidal wetland administered by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. It is located in Solano County, 2 miles west of downtown Benicia, California. The park covers 720 acres (3 km²) of marsh, grassy hillsides and rocky beaches along the narrowest portion of the Carquinez Strait. Southampton Creek and the tidal marsh front Southampton Bay, where the combined waters of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers prepare to enter San Pablo Bay.



Don José de Cañizares, diarist on the 1769 overland Portola expedition and who sailed with Don Juan Manuel de Ayala on the San Carlos, the first ship to enter San Francisco Bay on August 5, 1775, named the cove north and west of Benicia Puerto de las Asunta (Asumption Harbor in Spanish) because he discovered it on that feast day in 1775.[1] The cove is noted as "J" on Cañizares' famous 1781 Map of San Francisco Bay.[2] The present name, Southhampton Bay, is for the Navy frigate Southampton, which Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones sailed, along with a small fleet, to the cove in 1849.[3]

The sandstone point at Benicia SRA has been known as Rocky Point, Quarry Point and now Dillon Point. Stonecutter Patrick Dillon came to California from Tipperary, Ireland, during the 1849 California Gold Rush, settling in Benicia in 1851. General Vallejo leased Dillon the tidal flat at Southampton Bay and Rocky Point peninsula for a sandstone quarry. When the sandstone played out, the Dillon family and subsequent owners raised sheep and grapes until the State acquired the property in 1967.[4]

Habitat and wildlife

Great Blue Heron at Dillon Point, Benicia SRA 2009
Beaver Lodge on Southampton Creek, Benicia State Recreation Area March, 2009 Courtesy of Cheryl Reynolds, Worth a Dam

The Southampton Bay Wetland Natural Preserve makes up 70% of the park. The Southampton mudflat formed eroded upriver silt and clay deposits exceeds 1,000 feet thick.[4] The principal habitats here are brackish marsh, saltwater marsh and freshwater marsh. This rare and endangered wetland ecosystem is covered with marsh plants such as salt grass (Distichlis spicata), pickleweed (Batis maritima), coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis) and soft bird’s-beak (Cordylanthus mollis). Bird’s-beak is an endangered gray-green annual herb in the snapdragon family.

Park mammals include the federally endangered northern salt marsh harvest mice (Reithrodontomys raviventris halicoetes). Other mammals living in the park are coyote (Canis latrans), river otter (Lontra canadensis), muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) and California Golden Beaver (Castor canadensis subauratus). The beaver probably migrated from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in 2007. Historically, before the "California Fur Rush" of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Delta probably held the largest concentration of beaver in North America. It was California's early fur trade, more than any other single factor, that opened up the West, and the San Francisco Bay Area in particular, to world trade. In 1840, explorer Captain Thomas Farnham wrote that "There is probably no spot of equal extent in the whole continent of America which contains so many of these muchsought animals."[5]

Benicia SRA has been designated an Important Bird Area, providing habitat for endangered California Clapper Rails (Rallus longirostris obsoletus) and Black Rails (Laterallus jamaicensis). Other uncommon species include Virginia Rails (Rallus limicola), Suisun song sparrows (Melospiza melodia maxillaris) and Salt Marsh Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas sinuosa). On their journey along the Pacific Flyway, many waterfowl winter in the park.[4]


Cyclists, runners, walkers and roller skaters enjoy the park's 2.5 miles (4 km) of road and bike paths. The Hike and Bike Trail—two parallel, paved, accessible trails—begins at the Military West entrance and runs 0.75 miles to the main park entrance, joining Dillon Point Road for 1.5 miles. The trail system is part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Most popular is the 1.5 mile long walk out to Dillon Point on the park road. Picnicking is available at the group picnic area, one mile into the park. From the top of Dillon Point , you can trace the route of the Carquinez Strait Scenic Loop Trail, a 50-mile route that will, when finished, ring the strait.[6]

Dillon's Point offers prime shore fishing for white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus), starry flounder (Platichthys stellatus) and striped bass (Morone saxatilis).


Take Interstate 780 west from Benicia, exit Columbus Parkway to State Park Road. Vehicles can enter the park through a toll gate. The park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset daily.

See also


  1. ^ David L. Durham (1998). California's geographic names: a gazetteer of historic and modern names of the state. Fresno, California: Quill Driver Books. p. 705. ISBN 1884995144. Retrieved Jan. 3, 2010.  
  2. ^ Douglas S. Watson (Jun., 1934). "1781 Cañizares Map of San Francisco Bay". California Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 2: 180-181. Retrieved Jan. 3, 2010.  
  3. ^ Gene A. Smith (2000). Thomas Ap Catesby Jones: commodore of Manifest Destiny. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. p. 144. ISBN 1557508488.  
  4. ^ a b c "Benicia State Recreation Area Park Brochure". California State Parks. Retrieved Jan. 3, 2010.  
  5. ^ Thomas Jefferson Farnham (1857). Life, adventures, and travels in California. Blakeman & Co.. p. 383.  
  6. ^ Aleta George (Oct. - Dec., 2009). "Closing the Loop at Carquinez". Bay Nature. Retrieved Jan. 3, 2010.  

External links

38°04′25″N 122°11′35″W / 38.07356°N 122.193106°W / 38.07356; -122.193106Coordinates: 38°04′25″N 122°11′35″W / 38.07356°N 122.193106°W / 38.07356; -122.193106



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