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.
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.
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.
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.
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!