Muir Beach Field Trip

Muir Beach headlandsA month or so ago Tom was asked to do some illustrations for a small booklet about Muir Beach that will be used by the park service to introduce children to the area. We’d visited Muir Beach before and Tom had been sent detailed references to work from, but it still seemed worth the drive out for a little field trip.

seagull at Muir BeachJust so you know, we arrived in the morning, before the fog had burned off. In case you didn’t know, these pictures depict what passes for a pretty good day at the beach in Northern California. It was warm, which you can’t tell from the pictures, those aren’t rain clouds (‘just fog’) and there were people swimming, fishing and otherwise enjoying themselves. (So there.)

Lagoon at Muir BeachMuir Beach is both the name of a cluster of houses out at the end of a very windy road in western Marin County and a section of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The latter preserves a sandy strip of coastline where Redwood Creek reaches the ocean. It’s a small but important point of public access to the ocean and includes a surprising range of coastal habitats in its rather limited geographical area.

In the park, Redwood Creek cuts through a shallow line of dunes and across the beach, flowing from a lagoon and wetlands area just to the east. Although the Redwood Creek watershed drains just seven square miles, it provides critical habitat for salmon and other fish.

Redwood Creek outlet at Muir BeachThe park service is working hard to reverse changes made to the creek drainage upstream from the parking lot where early on areas were drained and channeled for agriculture and other uses and many exotic plant species gained a foothold.

Redwood Creek salmon habitatThe area around the parking lot and lagoon is also undergoing a transformation. Once overrun by non-native species – most notably vast mats of Kikuyu grass — the whole of the area has recently been cleared and is being revegetated with native wetland plants.

wetland revegetationFortunately for us a park botanist was onsite when we happened by on our field trip. Tom had been asked to include representative species in some of the illustrations and it sure helps to have someone who knows what they’re looking at point out to you what those are. I mean, look at that picture of newly planted sedges and rushes. Do they all kind of look the same to you? Exactly.

The trip was worthwhile for that alone — meeting up with the botanist, that is — and the illustrations came together nicely.

illustration by Tom Whitworth