Marin County Profile
Climate and Land
Marin is located on the 38th northern parallel, which is about where southern Spain, Italy, and Greece lie. It is about 522 square miles. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the south by the Golden Gate, on the east by the San Francisco and San Pablo Bays, and on the north by Sonoma County. The biggest mountain is Mount Tamalpais and its largest creek is Corte Madera Creek which has 28 tributaries and drains about 28 square miles. The other large creek of note is Lagunitas Creek which drains from Mt. Tamalpais and winds its way all the way to Tomales Bay on the Pacific side of the county. Marin County has many state, county, and city operated parks and recreational facilities including: China Camp State Park, Mt. Tamalpais State Park, Point Reyes National Seashore, and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The Marin Municipal Water District and North Marin Water District also control large expanses of land and several lakes.
90% of annual rainfall in Marin occurs from December to February and it rarely rains between May and September. Marin temperatures can vary by as much as 40 degrees within short distances during the summer. For example, western Novato can heat up to 100 degrees, while the fog on the coast (and to a lesser extent in Southern Marin) can keep temperatures in the 50?s ? 60?s.
The first inhabitants of Marin, up until Francis Drake made landfall in 1579 (other explorers are also alleged to have been to Marin during that period), were the Coastal Miwok Indians. They settled in Marin about 5,000 years before the Europeans came and lived largely as hunter-gatherers. About 3,000 Miwoks, in 3 primary villages (with over 600 artifact sites), are estimated to have lived in Marin when the Spanish arrived. Within decades of Spanish settlement, virtually all Miwoks were killed or died of disease. Following Drake, a succession of explorers allegedly bumped into Point Reyes, but contact was minimal.
From 1602 to 1772, the European presence in Marin was negligible. The Mission in San Rafael was established in 1817. In 1821, Mexico won independence from Spain and began providing land grants in 1824 and the last was made in 1846. There were 21 landowners (they lived on grand ranchos) in Marin when the United States declared was on Mexico that year. The only battle of the Bear Flag Rebellion, which essentially ended Mexico?s possession of Northern California, was fought in Marin at Olompali (a Miwok village site in Novato). Following the Mexican-American War, most of the land grants were honored by the United States, who took over possession.
On January 24, 1848 (10 days before Mexico formally ceded California to the United States), John Marshall found gold in the Sierras. While the impact of that discovery would transform San Francisco overnight, it also had a huge impact on Marin. Marin?s population exploded over the next decade from 321 in 1850 to 3,330 in 1860. And Marin also had lots of lumber, much of which was used to build San Francisco. The next few decades saw Marin grow into a cohesive rural county with many of the towns connected by railroad (some remnants of which still remain today).
Trains, steamships, and ferries were introduced to the county in the 1880’s and 90s. One rail line even took passengers to the top of Mt. Tamalpais. Piers and ferry slips were built in Sausalito and Tiburon. Transportation allowed farmers to supply San Francisco with food (mainly beef and dairy) and other crops and natural resources. It also meant more people could enjoy Marin County without too much effort. In 1937, when the bridge spanned the Golden Gate, the pressure for development increased. During World War II, people came from across the country to work in Sausalito?s shipyards (now referred to as Marinship) and at the Hamilton Air Force Base in Novato (now in the final stages of housing development following closure of the base).
From 1850 to 1950 the population of Marin increased by 85,000 people. Twenty years later there were an additional 123,000 residents. Population growth has slowed since then and is now about 245,000.