India Basin Natural Areas

Shoreline bird at India Basin Natural Areas

Just 150 years ago, San Francisco Bay was ringed by wetlands, valuable ecosystems that supported many plant and animal species. Over 90 percent of these wetlands have been lost to development, but a few can still be found. India Basin is one of these precious wetlands, and is the only natural area within the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department system that borders the bay.

Restoration began at India Basin in 2000 as part of a mitigation project associated with San Francisco International Airport. Today the park features tidal salt marsh and upland habitat that provides food and shelter for a variety of shorebirds and foraging habitat for raptors. It also boasts excellent views of the bay, trails that link to the Bay Area Ridge Trail, access for kayakers, and fantastic bird watching.

Natural History

Wetlands, including mudflats, ponds, tidal channels, and salt marshes, are home to a wealth of plants and wildlife. Specially adapted plants such as cordgrass, toad rush, pickleweed, and marsh rosemary can withstand the changing environmental conditions of the India Basin tidal salt marsh. These plants triumph over the daily adversities of inundation, exposure, extreme temperatures, high salinity, turbidity variations, and oxygen-poor water. Not only do they survive in the harsh environment, they flourish to the point of creating some of the most productive ecosystems on earth. Countless organisms feed, take shelter, and nest in salt marsh foliage.

More than 75 species of birds have been observed foraging in the salt marshes and mudflats of India Basin. A few common inhabitants are the snowy egret, American avocet, northern harrier, brown pelican, and great blue heron.

Healthy wetlands provide countless environmental benefits in addition to their significance as habitat. They reduce bank and shoreline erosion and damage caused by stream runoff, tidal waters, flooding, and wave action. By trapping pollutants, wetlands improve the water quality of urban and agricultural runoff into the bay. They also trap and stabilize sediment suspended in the water that would otherwise hinder fish and plant growth.

Location Map