Muir Beach

At the mouth of the West Coast’s southernmost wild Coho salmon run is one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most popular ocean beaches, Muir Beach, where the rural setting had obscured a century-long process of severe ecological devastation.

Through a series of phased interventions at Muir Beach’s 30-acre terminus of Redwood Creek, tidal, riparian, and freshwater wetlands have been now restored; endangered Coho salmon, threatened steelhead trout and red-legged frogs are returning; and public access has been rearranged to balance harmoniously with the restored ecosystem.

Informed by historic ecological forensics using historic photos and maps, the underlying ecological process of the former Big Lagoon guided the restoration and public access design. Over 150 years of developments through the watershed—including overgrazing, logging, construction, and stream alterations—increased sedimentation resulted in the loss of Big Lagoon. Integrating current sedimentation conditions into the watershed’s historic ecological processes, Muir Beach’s restoration strategy accepts episodic pulses of fresh rainwater flows as well as incremental sea level rise by re-establishing a natural stream channel with floodplain connectivity, removing obstacles to free-flowing water restored habitats, and separating public access from sensitive resources.

In the final restoration phase, Muir Beach’s parking lot with its visitor amenities was moved out of the floodplain, with the parking turned 90-degrees and tucked into the toe of the hill, allowing the creek to freely meander. A 450-ft long-span pedestrian bridge was constructed to cross the newly widened floodplain, connecting new parking with beach and hiking trails. Public access is no longer just a direct connection to the beach, but instead a rich and multi-sensory journey through the healthy natural coastal ecological setting of which the beach is a part.  The suite of site improvements demarcates visitor-use from wildlife habitat in an integrated overlay, allowing both to co-exist seamlessly with a restored watershed-based ecosystem.

Location

Muir Beach, CA

Size

±30 acres

Completed

2009-2014

Client

National Park Service (GGNRA)
Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy (GGNPC)

Team

PWA (Hydrologist)
Northern Hydrology Engineers (Hydrologist)
Enginious Structures (Structural Engineers)

Scope

Concept – Schematic, CD-CA parking, access, bridge

Related Projects

Stinson Beach

Yosemite Valley

Muir Woods

Redwood National & State Parks Visitor Center