Opened in late 2015, Bair Island is the largest island in the South Bay spanning over 3,000 acres. It’s a complex mosaic of twisted tidal channels, mudflats and salt marsh vegetation. It’s also a hotspot for birds and marine wildlife and, thanks to POST and our community of supporters, it’s all yours to explore.
Endangered Ridgway's rails and salt marsh harvest mice. Also cottontail rabbits, peregrine falcons, pelicans, egrets, terns and stilts. Large rays and small leopard sharks can be seen in the sloughs at the farther reaches of the island.
Distance: .8 miles round trip to the closer observation platform, or 3.2 to the farther one (see map below)
Elevation change: N/A
Hiking time: 1-2 hours, depending on your route
Trail surface: Gravel
Best Season: All year
Managing agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Parking lot location: Click here for directions
Overview: Located east of downtown Redwood City, Bair Island offers a flat hiking trail with views of the bay and the cornucopia of wildlife that call this place home.
For a longer hike, follow the flat, exposed trail for 1.7 miles to the Middle Bair Island observation deck. Or, for something shorter, stay right and head to the Inner Island observation deck, less than a half mile from the trailhead.
Make sure to bring your binoculars and look out for birds like the Ridgway’s rail and western snowy plover, two endangered species that use this marshy habitat. Retrace your steps back to the parking lot for both these hikes.
In the early 20th century, the island was used for ranching cattle, farming and salt production. Levees were built to prevent the flow of tidal waters around the island. At one point, a massive housing development was proposed for the island. Without the support of concerned local citizens, this special habitat could have been lost.
In 1997, POST bought and protected 1,623 acres of Bair Island. Shortly after, we began work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited to restore the island with the goal of removing the levees and returning the landscape to a more natural ecological state. It took some time, and in December of 2015, the final levee was breached and the life-rich waters of the Bay came rushing back to nourish the land and re-shape it over time.
Though portions of the island are owned by the State of California, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has managed the entire area since 1998 as part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. They continue to restore the 1,400 acres of Bair Island to tidal marsh and revitalize it with the help of restoration funds from POST.