Friday, May 20, 2016

Golden Gate National Recreation Area, 5/16/2016

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is the largest national park unit in an urban setting. It encompasses 81,000 acres with dozens of natural and historic places in the San Francisco area. It is also recognized by the United Nations as Golden Gate Biosphere Reserve. We had already visited several locations that are included in the recreation area: Land's End, Cliff House, Muir Beach, and Stinson Beach

Here are some statistics I found interesting about the recreation area. There are:
  • 36,000 park volunteers
  • 29,000 yearly raptor sightings
  • 10,000 years of history
  • 758 historic structures
  • 140 miles of trails
  • 78 shipwrecks
  • 35 threatened or endangered species
  • 12 sand beaches
  • 3 lighthouses
Today, our last sightseeing day in San Francisco, we made our way south to the Golden Gate Bridge (after visiting Muir Woods) and took the first exit on the right. We found a free parking lot on the southwest side of the bridge, leashed our doggy, Sadie, and set out for a nice hike in the area. 

As we approached the Golden Gate Bridge, we stopped at the Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion. There are interpretative signs describing the engineering solutions available today to strengthen the bridge and better prepare it for earthquakes. Today, scientists and engineers know so much more about the effects of seismic activities on bridges, buildings, etc. The original lattice struts have a crisscross pattern of steel riveted together. When one needs to be replaced today, a new, stronger, one-piece steel strut is used that has been designed based on extensive stress testing. The struts in the foreground in the photo below are the new struts, and the thinner, original ones can be seen beyond the new.

Below the bridge is historic Fort Point

Check out the surfers riding the waves that break near the seawall of Fort Point. They are just specks in the second picture. 

The Gold Rush of 1848 had made San Francisco the most important city on the Wes Coast. After California became the 31st state, the military started strategic planning to build fortifications in San Francisco. Built by the US Army beginning in 1853, it took 200 workers 8 years to complete the four-tiered structure. The top tier could hold 126 cannons behind 7' thick walls. By the time it was completed (1861) the Civil War had begun. It was guarded with troops on duty throughout the war but never sustained an attack. In the 1890s cannons from Fort Point were moved to the East Battery where they were more protected by earthworks. If you have the time, you can tour the fort but check to see if it is open.

When planning began to build the Golden Gate Bridge, some believed Fort Point needed to be torn down. However, the designer of the bridge decided to alter the bridge design to accommodate the historic fort (believing it should become a historical monument. The 6th US Coast Artillery was stationed at Fort Point during WWII to guard the bay and the anti-sub net that spanned the Golden Gate. It was named a National Historic Site in 1970 by President Nixon.

Crissy Field, a historic grass airfield, was used by the Air Service from 1919 to 1936. They promoted aviation with activities such as aerobatic stunts, air races and long distance flying. It influenced the expansion of military air power and commercial aviation. With its location on the bay, it could accommodate both land and sea planes. Aircraft hangars, workshops, administrative buildings, and barracks for enlisted personnel of the era are now being used by local businesses. 

Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center is located across from the field near the beach. 


Our doggy, Sadie, went for a swim while we enjoyed views of the Palace of Fine Arts and Alcatraz Island.

The Warming Hut is a 1909 structure that was once a US Engineer Storehouse. In 2001 it was converted into a lovely cafe and gift shop. It is next to the Fort Point Pier where we saw lots of folks fishing or just enjoying the views of the bay.

We walked up the steep trail from the beach area to the Golden Gate Bridge Visitor Plaza

There are various exhibits in the plaza that provide the history of the design, construction, challenges, and before/after photographs. A bronze sculpture of Joseph B. Strauss (1870-1938), Chief Engineer of the the Golden Gate Bridge, can also be found here. Many others provided the critical technical details that enabled the vision become a reality. 

The length of the bridge is 4,200' and the clearance from the water is 220'. The top of the towers are 746' above the water. 80,000 miles of wire were used in the main cables and 1,200,000 rivets in the construction of the bridge. It is painted International Orange to enhance visibility and complement the natural surroundings. A staff of 38 full-time painters maintain the bridge year round. 

There were no admission fees for the sites we visited today. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area has so much to do that it would take weeks, if not months, to see it all. All of the Visitor Centers can provide you with information about the many places you may chose to visit. It's fantastic that this land, historic buildings, museums, wildlife, and plant life are protected by the National Park Service. For additional information, you can go to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area website.


No comments:

Post a Comment