for 3,000 to 5,000 years. Do you have that
diversity in other national parks? In some.
But not many.”
Dell’Osso may be biased. As Point Reyes’
chief of interpretation and resource education,
he’s in charge of the helping the public under-
stand the seashore. And this slice of California
has been his life: he’s worked here for 30 years.
Still, Dell’Osso isn’t indulging in hyperbole.
The seashore is a special place. Its 70,000 acres
include 33,000 acres of wilderness and 80 miles
of coastline that range from sheltered to craggy.
Its high points may not wow with sheer elevation (Mount Vision rises only 1,280 feet) but the
views are to die for.
So beautiful is this place that it’s easy to
think, well, of course it’s been protected. In fact,
the battle to bring Point Reyes into the national
park system was hard-fought. To understand
why, you have to travel back in time to 1960.
The years previous had been boom ones
for Marin County and for the entire Bay Area.
Between 1950 and 1960, Marin grew from
87,700 residents in 1950 to 148,800, and many
hoped for even faster growth in the future.
Much of the new development was concentrated along Highway 101. But builders looked
at West Marin and said, why not develop there
too? Suburban dreams blossomed. Marincello,
the 150,000-person city planned for the Marin
Headlands, was the most famous. But in Point
Reyes projects like Drakes Bay Estates — “an
exclusive recreational and residential beach
development” — were nearing approval.
Citizen groups like the Point Reyes National
Seashore Foundation rose up to fight the
plans — by making Point Reyes a national
park. It wasn’t easy. One challenge: the park
service itself. Traditionally, national parks
had celebrated singular natural wonders like
Yellowstone’s geysers or Sequoia’s giant red-
woods. However ecologically important, the
more subtle beauties of an unspoiled coastline
were a new priority. And local opposition was
fierce. Point Reyes had a century-old heritage
of cattle and dairy ranching. While many
Eighteen percent of
all the flowering plant
species in California
are found here. Fifty-
two percent of the bird
species in all of North
America have been
This page: The winding path
to Kehoe Beach. Opposite,
clockwise from left: The historic
Point Reyes Lighthouse; an
aerial showing Tomales Point;
horseback riding at Wildcat.