Once marshes extended into much of Corte Madera and Larkspur. Now the remaining marsh along the San Francisco Bay is a a State Ecological Reserve. From within the confines of a car on Highway 101 or the adjacent Redwood Highway, this marsh might not look all that inviting. When you take time to explore the area you may be surprised by the views, vast array of birds and dirt paths that make this marsh a worthwhile destination.
Getting to the marsh by bike will put a smile on your face without breaking a sweat. Thanks to our amazing bike paths you can ride to the Corte Madera Marsh without worrying about vehicular traffic. If you are not familiar with the extensive Larkspur- Corte Madera Bike Path do check out the Marin County Bicycle Coalition's map or Google Maps with the "Bicycling" option. These former railroad lines still compose the heart of the Twin Cities for non-motorized traffic.
The path that leads to the marsh starts behind Redwood High School. According to Friends of the Corte Madera Creek Watershed the site of Redwood High was once an island surrounded by marshes. A marsh still exists between the school's fields and the elevated bike path. As you sit high on the former railroad it is easy to imagine how this area must have looked years ago.
Now that you are on the bike path head east towards the San Francisco Bay. There are only two street crossing before you arrive at the marsh and both feature crosswalks with signals. The first crossing is Tamal Vista Boulevard near the DMV. After cruising underneath Highway 101, still on the path, you quickly reach the second crossing at Redwood Highway. Here you choose between a paved path to the right or squeezing behind the fence onto a dirt path (a great shortcut to Trader Joe's as well).
Regardless of which direction you turn, the marsh greets you with a wide variety of birds. You will see lots of egrets, herons, sandpipers, geese, hawks, and copious other species unknown to me. I have always marveled at how the white egrets and herons stay so clean living in a muddy marsh!
The trails that create a large loop around the marsh can get rocky at times and wide-tired bikes will fare better there. Within the larger loop a number of smaller trails make for fun riding when not submerged in water, as many are now. Dead-end spurs head out onto the bay where water laps the shore as the ferries pass. This is a great place to take a break and enjoy our proximity to a very large body of water.
The northern region of this preserve contains two separate marshes. The Corte Madera Shorebird Marsh is the section along Redwood Highway and, within that, Humbar Marsh is located behind Cost Plus World Market.
On the southern edge of the marsh the San Clemente Drive Park has a buttery-smooth paved bike path that connects to Paradise Drive. On my way to hiking Ring Mountain I often take the dirt shortcut into the residential neighborhood in order to skip a block of cycling on Paradise Drive.
The bike paths at the Corte Madera Marsh offer cyclists more than bird watching. These paths allow car-free access to numerous shopping centers, neighborhoods, and hiking trails. This means you might be able to talk a friend/spouse/child into the ride with the promise of shopping if natural scenery doesn't do the trick.
Next time on Sunday Rides we will head in the opposite direction, into the hills to find an equally flat and scenic path above the Twin Cities. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions. See you on the paths!