No longer a true island, this preserve (154 acres) rises above the eastern edge of Novato from an area that was once part of the extensive wetlands in the Petaluma River Delta. Deer Island can be enjoyed in a short day. Many users walk or jog the relatively level loop trail as a morning or evening exercise routine. This small preserve is just a few minutes from Highways 101 and 37 but it is peaceful and quiet. There are many places along the trails where you can enjoy a reflective moment and appreciate the birds, trees, and flowers that thrive here.
In spring, the grasslands along the ridge come alive with wildflowers such as ground iris and shooting stars. This is also a great place to find many different kinds of butterflies, some of which are dependent on the surrounding marsh habitat. Remnants of this property’s dairy farming days are visible around the preserve. Weathered outbuildings still stand near the entrance but the small farmhouse will soon serve as the offices of the Parks & Open Space Environmental Education Program. There is evidence that this location was once the site of a settlement occupied, at least seasonally, by Miwok peoples.
From Hwy 101 in Novato, take the Atherton Ave/San Marin Dr exit east on Atherton Ave, turn right at Olive Ave, and turn left at Deer Island Ln. MCOSD gate is on the right.
Visit walkbikemarin.org, transitandtrails.org, 511.org, or dial 511 to find out about alternative transportation and public transit options from your location.
Dense woodlands, oak savannah, and open grasslands surrounded by seasonal wetlands – a true wildlife refuge where the hills meet the bay. Red-shouldered Hawks and White-tailed Kites nest here nearly every year, as do Barn and Great-horned owls. This is a great place to look for alligator lizards and gopher snakes, and the Pygmy Blue butterfly is often seen along the marsh edge.