This 33 acre preserve features a small patch of salt marsh surrounded by a levee. This area is a part of the Las Gallinas creek delta–the endpoint of a watershed that drains the Terra Linda valleys. The story of this tiny salt marsh is much the same as that of the extensive tidal wetlands that once surrounded San Francisco and San Pablo Bays. These marshes were easily converted for agricultural and other purposes by creating dikes that eliminated the salt water access at high tide. Once diked, these tracts could be filled and then used for pasture or cropland, often followed by residential or commercial development. More than 90% of the tidal marshes around the Bay were destroyed in this fashion, which resulted in habitat loss for many plants and animals that had evolved to live in these unique places. This particular marsh was diked and filled early in the 1900’s when the surrounding area was being leveled for development. Later the outer levees were breached and tidal action resumed. The salt marsh slowly reappeared as pickleweed and saltgrass moved in thus providing habitat for animals like the California Clapper Rail and the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse, which now thrive in the dense vegetation within the tidal zone. The surrounding area is now a patchwork of channels, marshland and flood control lands that are inhabited by a diverse array of birds and other animals. The trail atop the levee at Santa Venetia Marsh is a favorite path for local residents who wish to enjoy a walk or jog along a clear, level path.
East access: From Hwy 101 in San Rafael, take the N San Pedro Rd exit east and turn left Vendola Dr. MCOSD gate is at the end, on the left.
West access: From Hwy 101 in San Rafael, take the N San Pedro Rd exit east, turn left at La Pasada Way, and turn right at Vendola Dr. MCOSD gate is at the end.
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Textbook habitat for the Endangered Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse and the California Clapper Rail. Northern Harriers, White-tailed Kites and Red-tailed Hawks search the levees for voles and other rodents. This is one of the few places in the county where the Pygmy Blue Butterfly can be found.