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Port of Redwood City

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Aerial view of the Port of Redwood City
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Port of Redwood City, 1878

The Port of Redwood City is a marine freight terminal on the western side of the southern San Francisco Bay, on the West Coast of the United States. This marine terminal is situated within the city of Redwood City, California. The port was developed from a natural deepwater channel discovered in the year 1850, at the mouth of Redwood Creek. From the early use as a log float port, commercial use expanded to a variety of industrial commodities; moreover, it is considered the birthplace of shipbuilding on the North American west coast. As of 2004 the annual freight shipments have reached about two million metric tons. The Port of Redwood City provides berths for dry bulk, liquid bulk, and project cargoes, along with certain recreational opportunities and public access to San Francisco Bay.

The Port of Redwood City is the only deepwater port in the South San Francisco Bay. Significant expanses of bay mud are present nearby: in Redwood Creek, Westpoint Slough and especially at the mouth of Redwood Creek, where bay muds extend almost two kilometers into San Francisco Bay. In fact, the Port of Redwood City is the only major California port with significant expanses of natural habitat area in its immediate proximity.


Robert O. Tripp (founder of the historic Woodside Store) and Mathias A. Parkhurst began the first lumber operation using the waterways of Redwood Creek to float coast redwoods from Woodside to San Francisco in 1850. These two men thus became the founders of Redwood City itself. The Port of Redwood City is considered the place of genesis for the shipbuilding industry on the Pacific West Coast. The first schooner was built here in 1851 by G.M. Burnham and appropriately named Redwood. Shipbuilding thrived here until the 1880s. The last wooden ship built in Redwood City, called the Perseverance, was launched in 1883.

The Port was called El Embarcadero up until at least the 1880s; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged of a Script error: No such module "convert". channel between 1886 and 1889, to yield a channel Script error: No such module "convert". wide. In 1903, the Corps increased the channel width to Script error: No such module "convert". and by 1911, they broadened it to Script error: No such module "convert".. In 1931, local and federal interests combined to deepen the channel to Script error: No such module "convert". and widen it to Script error: No such module "convert"., for a lineal distance of Script error: No such module "convert"..

Local businessmen and civic leaders formed the Redwood City Harbor Company in the year 1912, establishing the name of the Port for the era of the early 20th century.[1] In this period competition from the railroad limited growth of the port. A number of industrial companies, however, saw the value of the Port's location, including the Alaska Codfish Company and the Morgan Oyster Company. In particular the Pacific-Portland Cement Company, moving to the Port in 1924, substantially increased shipping activity.

Geology and hydrology

The Port of Redwood City is situated on the east banks of Redwood Creek approximately one kilometer upchannel from the mouth of Redwood Creek.[2] Extensive areas of marshland and bay muds are found in the vicinity of the Port. Westpoint Slough joins Redwood Creek from the southeast about 600 meters north of the Port of Redwood City. Deepwater Slough is a U-shaped channel whose two ends join Redwood Creek both north and south of the Port, with both joins on the opposite site of Redwood Creek. Approximately one kilometer north of the Port of Redwood City, Corkscrew Slough enters Redwood Creek from the northwest. From that confluence northward the northwest bank of Redwood Creek (now at the mouth) consists of Bair Island, an expansive area of saltwater marsh and salt evaporation ponds.

Typical high tides at the Port range from 7.0 to Script error: No such module "convert"., based upon February, 2007 tide chart data. Low tide typically varies from -0.8 to Script error: No such module "convert"..


Climates within the San Francisco Bay Area have superficial similarities, but certain features have pronounced differences. For this reason a detailed microclimate study was conducted at the Port of Redwood City, with the specific goal of comparing meteorological parameters to nearby locations.[3] Temperatures, for example, were found to conform closely to those of San Francisco International Airport and Palo Alto Airport; in contrast, wind speeds at the Port were found to be approximately half the levels of San Francisco Airport. This result is not surprising since Conomos observed that the wind speeds in Northern San Mateo County are high due to the San Bruno Gap in the Santa Cruz Mountains.[4]

Recreational use

The Port of Redwood City has more than one lineal mile of public access along Redwood Creek, including walkways, viewing areas and picnic areas. The Port provides a venue for a number of public events and festivals, including visits by historic ships and sailing vessels. Some of the specific activities include a decorated boat parade, crew races, Hawaiian outrigger canoe races, and sailing regattas. The 190-berth Redwood City Marina is operated within the Port of Redwood City. This facility accommodates vessels up to Script error: No such module "convert". in length and has Script error: No such module "convert". of draft at low tide. The Port provides electricity and water service to the permanent and overnight boats; restrooms, showers, and laundry facilities are also available for marina users. The port operates a 24/7 boat launch facility, the only such capability offered in San Francisco Bay south of Coyote Point.

Role in emergency water transit

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his 2007 state of the State of California address, unveiled a plan for emergency water transit for the San Francisco Bay Region. The plan provides for a key role for the Port of Redwood City which "is strategically located between two bridges — the Dumbarton Bridge and the San Mateo Bridge. A Redwood City ferry terminal would be a crucial link, and also serve about 1400 regular passengers a day".[5] The plan, inspired by New York City's harbor service following 9/11, would feature 88 new vessels and multiple portable piers that could be deployed to respond to an emergency. The Port of Redwood City, whose director has endorsed the plan, would play a key role as a permanent marine terminal installation for the proposed system. The entity to conduct this $1.6 billion project is named the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority.

See also


  1. History of the Port of Redwood City
  2. U.S. Geological Survey, Redwood Point Quadrangle, 7.5 Minute Series, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC
  3. Meteorological Study at Port of Redwood City 1992-1994
  4. T.J.Conomos, Circulation of San Francisco Bay Waters, in "San Francisco Bay: The Urbanized Estuary", ed. T.J. Conomos, pp 47-84 (1979)
  5. Alan Wang, ABC News, Expanded Ferries Would Reach South Bay: Major Role For Port Of Redwood City, January 11, 2007

External links

Coordinates: 37°30′18″N 122°12′50″W / 37.505°N 122.214°W / 37.505; -122.214{{#coordinates:37.505|N|122.214|W|source:enwiki-plaintext-parser|||| |primary |name= }}