Bike The Corte Madera Marshes

Years ago much of the Twin Cities were marshes. Ride the bike paths to the remaining marsh along the Bay, a State Ecological Reserve.

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!

Jana Haehl March 21, 2011 at 02:58 PM
All maps should designate this area as the Corte Madera Ecological Reserve, which is the name conferred upon it when ownership of the former Heerdt Marsh (not Humbar) and Muzzi Marsh were transferred to the California Department of Fish & Game more than thirty years ago. The Heerdt Marsh, one of the last remnants of the pristine tidal marshes that once ringed the Bay, was acquired for permanent preservation by the State in 1976, using reparation funds paid by Standard Oil after a major oil spill in the Bay some years earlier, along with funds contributed by the Marin Conservation League, Marin Audubon Society, and Marin County Open Space District. The Muzzi Marsh had been diked off from tidal action by the Corps of Engineers in the 1950s, and it was restored to tidal action in the late 1970s after the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway & Transportation District acquired it with Federal transportation funds in order to deposit spoils there from the Larkspur Ferry dredging as well as to mitigate environmental damage related to the Ferry project. Although most of the former Muzzi Marsh is included in the Corte Madera Ecological Reserve, the GGBH&TD still owns the 72-acre portion within the loop path described in the article, where dredging spoils were deposited, but environmentalists hope to add that section to the Corte Madera Ecological Reserve as well.
Lauren Baxter March 21, 2011 at 11:48 PM
I'm excited about this column! I've ridden along the marsh towards Paradise loop many times but I've recently been looking for "unpaved" rides. Do you know how many miles it's possible to get in on the dirt portion of this path?
James Bikes Green April 01, 2011 at 05:29 AM
If you ride all the trails at the marsh it would be a couple miles. Stay tuned for some longer yet inviting unpaved rides in the next few articles!


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