Bair Island

Canoe on the Bay, Spot Unique Wildlife and Restore Habitat in the Same Day!

The best way to view the wildlife at Bair Island is to take a boat, canoe, or kayak up Redwood Creek to the islands. Outer Bair Island is separated from Middle Bair by Corkscrew Slough, which is a waterway that varies in depth from a few inches to 11 feet at high tide. Outer and Middle Bair provide refuge for wildlife and there is no public access.

However, Save the Bay guides frequent canoe trips to Middle Bair Island where volunteers restore habitat. "It's a special place, and our volunteers really get a feeling for that," says Laura Wainer, Restoration Projects Manager for Save The Bay.

In the past several year thousands of volunteers have pulled up tens of thousands of pounds of iceplant and other invasive plants and planted nearly 3,000 salt marsh natives, such as gum plant, salt grass, and alkalai heath.

Part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Redwood City, Bair Island is a complex of former salt ponds and grazing lands divided into three areas – inner, middle and outer Bair Island. Bair Island is home to over 150 species of birds and wildlife including great blue herons, great and snowy egrets, and forester's and Caspian's terns. This area also provides a safe place for harbor seals to rest, give birth and nurse their young.

The restoration of Bair Island is an important step in revitalizing San Francisco Bay wetlands to improve water quality, expand and enhance wildlife habitat for threatened and endangered species.

Bair Island is one of the Bay Area's most popular shoreline areas attracting 250,000 visitors annually. Visitors jog, view wildlife and enjoy the beautiful open space. A new 2.7 mile public trail for pedestrians and bicyclists will be constructed in the next few years.

History: Local Residents Save Bair Island
Bair Island once included thousands of acres of unspoiled tidal salt marsh, tidal sloughs and mudflats. Integral to the ecology of the South Bay, many have fought to protect and restore Bair Island for decades.

  • 1920s: Fred Bair used the island for cattle grazing, giving the island its name
  • 1940s: Leslie Salt begins salt operations on most of the island
  • 1973: Mobil Oil Company buys Bair Island and proposes building "South Shores", a large residential and office development
  • 1981: City Council of Redwood City approves the development plan. Local residents overturn the City Council's decision by voter referendum.
  • 1989: Tokyo-based developer Kumagai Gumi buys Bair Island to pursue development.
  • 1997: Peninsula Open Space Trust buys Bair Island and turns the land over to the USFWS for inclusion in the Refuge.

Save The Bay restores Bair Island
Save The Bay is working with The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Ducks Unlimited to restore Middle Bair Island with native vegetation. Volunteers paddle via canoe to Middle Bair Island to remove invasive plants and plant native tidal marsh species. The goals of the restoration project are:

  • Increase native plant coverage for habitat for endangered and sensitive species
  • Improve tidal marsh functions by increasing stabilization of banks through native root systems
  • Increase sediment retention rates in native vegetation
  • Provide opportunities for the public to enjoy and learn about the islands resources

In anticipation of breaching Bair Island's levees over the next few years, Save The Bay is developing new techniques to increase native wetland plant survival and using this site as a testing ground for these experiments. In coordination with larger restoration efforts occurring at Bair Island, Save The Bay is working to rapidly increase native plant coverage in transition zones of the Island.