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Oak Woodlands Natural Area


  1. Natural Area
  2. Trail
While most of Golden Gate Park has been landscaped with lawns, flowerbeds and other ornamental features, a few remnants of San Francisco’s oak woodlands still exist in this world-renowned park. The northeast corner of Golden Gate Park is home to some of the oldest coast live oak trees in San Francisco.

Before European settlement, the area that is now Golden Gate Park was part of one of the largest inland-reaching sand dune systems along the western shore of North America. It stretched seven miles from Ocean Beach across the peninsula to the present-day Financial District. The western areas near the ocean were covered with constantly drifting sand. Toward the eastern end, rock outcrops and ridges provided a protected environment in which oak trees thrived. Despite their rich biological diversity and stark beauty, the dunes did not meet the European aesthetic for park land. In 1870, William Hammond Hall submitted a plan to Mayor Frank McCoppin to tame the sand dunes and "fit a graceful curvature" to the natural topography. Using horse manure, the park designers transformed the ever-shifting sand into stabilized, arable soil. The actual dune reclamation project began in 1872 with the planting of grasses, lupine, and various trees. The introduction of nitrogen-fixing species such as lupine allowed ornamental trees and shrubs to survive. Fortunately, the park was "built" around the oak woodlands, and today they remain a unique feature of Golden Gate Park and a historic remnant providing clues to an earlier ecosystem.

Related Links
Phil Arnold Trail
Golden Gate Park main page