China Camp State Park

China Camp State Park

There’s a little beach full of history tucked away in San Rafael, on the shores of San Pablo Bay, that is a treasure waiting to be discovered.  A quick 45 minute drive from Santa Rosa, a turn at the Marin Civic Center off ramp, and a short trek out to the water’s edge and you step back in time and enter a magical place.

Old buildings scattered along the shore once housed Chinese immigrants, shrimp fishermen, who exported 3 million pounds of dried shrimp to China each year. After you  park you walk down a driveway toward the buildings and enter a different era.IMG_4892adj

You can explore the area surrounding the village by hiking:IMG_4713adj

You can walk through the village and enjoy old buildings and signs of days gone by:IMG_4725adj IMG_4723adj IMG_4730adj IMG_4732adj IMG_4735adj IMG_4739adj IMG_4740adj IMG_4760adj

Some of the buildings are original and some are restored versions of what might have been. The aged wood and rusted metal will take you back to a special time in history.IMG_4788adj IMG_4758adl IMG_4755adj IMG_4766adj IMG_4746adj

We loved the museum and had a wonderful time learning the history of the area from Paul, an extremely knowledgeable docent , who taught us not only about the village but the history of San Pablo Bay and the effect of dams and pollution on our natural resources. The museum is full of photos and relics explaining the shrimp fishing and the people who called this place home.IMG_4804adjIMG_4805adj IMG_4807adj IMG_4809adj

There is an etching on one of the  museum windows that is both beautiful and poignant.IMG_4811adj

Just outside the museum is a caged engine with a story. At first the fishermen had to put out their nets and drag them in by hand. The invention of this engine changed their lives forever. IMG_4751adj IMG_4750adj

If you go on the weekend the pier will be open and you can walk out to the end and check out the old fishing boat floating alongside.IMG_4886adj IMG_4839adj IMG_4832adj IMG_4823adj

One man, who was born in China Camp, still lives there. When the land became a State park there was a special provision that he would be allowed to live there for the rest of his life. The day we were there Friends of China Camp were having the roof patched on his house.IMG_4828adj

Walk along the beach and you can find beautiful oysters shells and interesting rock formations.IMG_4851adj IMG_4854adj

Another fun fact Paul shared with us: The John Wayne movie, Blood Alley, about a rescue that takes place in China, was actually filmed here at China Camp! Inside the snack shop there is some fun memorabilia. We watched the movie as soon as we got home and recognized all the spots from our visit.IMG_4880adj IMG_4882adj IMG_4833adj

This is a very special place. Hike, explore, walk along the water and reflect on life….This one spot has it all. Oh, and bring along a picnic lunch…plenty of spots to settle in for lunch:IMG_4771adj

For more information find the State park site here.

And check out the Friends of China Camp site here.

Note: Photographically we went at a bad time…high noon on a sunny day.  I can’t wait to go back again in the late afternoon, then on a foggy day and again in the morning.  It’s a photographer’s dream spot!