Sunday, December 18, 2016

San Francisco Maritime NHP

The San Francisco peninsula is literally ringed by piers. The northern edge of the city is aptly named Fisherman's Wharf.  San Francisco was forged by maritime industry (shipping, fishing, whaling, and the like).  Indeed, San Francisco and the Bay Area is still deeply rooted in the maritime industry.  San Francisco Maritime NHP chronicles that history, bringing its history alive.

The Visitor Center walks guests through the history of San Francisco seafaring from the earliest settlers until today, with a special exhibit on shipwrecks around the bay.  There is also a Maritime Museum with rotating exhibits on maritime history.  By far, the crown jewel of the park, however, is Hyde Street Pier with four century-old ships to tour.

View of Ghirardelli Square from Hyde Street Pier

California Sea Lions in their natural habitat!

Of note, US Highway 101, which runs the length of California, used to run through Hyde St Pier via a ferry service before the Golden Gate Bridge was constructed.  The Eureka is one of those turn-of-the-century ferries.  The lower deck held cars (note the classic cars on display), while the upper deck had seating in a style reminiscent of church pews.

US Route 101 used to run directly under the Hyde Street Pier sign and onto the waiting ferry.

Recreation of what the car hold must have looked like on a typical day in the early 1900s

The passenger area
It may be hard to believe, but the 150-foot C.A. Thayer was a cargo ship.  Built in 1895 with an eight-man crew, it carried logs in the hold below-decks from the Washington coast down to San Francisco.  Those logs, in turn, were used to build California's cities when they were growing in the early 1900s. 

The hold, below-decks, that was filled with logs as it traversed the Pacific coast line
The Balclutha was also a cargo ship, but it was built in Scotland in 1886 to carry wheat from California to Europe.  In the days before the Panama Canal, that meant making each journey in the unpredictable waters around Cape Horn at the tip of South America. 

The Balclutha's cargo hold

The Captain's suite

The enlisted berths.  They got to sleep with the anchor wench.
The Hercules was perhaps the biggest workhorse of the four, though as you would expect, as a tugboat, not as sexy.  It had a diverse portfolio of ferrying railroad car barges across the Bay, tugging ships out to sea, and ferrying lock materials down to the site of the Panama Canal.

The towing machinery
As I've said many times before, one of the things I love most about visiting NPS sites is the diversity of things to do, learn, and explore.  San Francisco NHP explores an area of history that I, personally, have had little exposure to.  I found the park a great way to spend a few hours exploring some of America's maritime history in a hands-on way and in a beautiful setting, learning about an industry that made this part of America.


  1. California Sea Lions, not seals!!!!

    Sorry. I love your blogposts and it's totally not fair to post only to criticize, but although I left California (and the U.S.) over 25 years ago...I can't let that one slide! LOL

  2. Sheila, Thanks for pointing that out! I had no idea, so now I've learned something! I've updated the blog post to be correct now. Thanks for following my posts, and I hope you continue to enjoy them!