Bear Valley: Once Home to Elite Sportsman’s Club

by Laurie Thompson

Clubhouse in Divide Meadow for Country Club members, circa 1892 . Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

The beautiful Bear Valley trail in Point Reyes once led to a private resort belonging to members of San Francisco’s exclusive Pacific Union Club.

Their luxurious clubhouse stood in today’s “Divide Meadow” and their hunting grounds, leased from the Shafter and Howard families, extended over 76,000 acres and included seven lakes stocked with fish.

Known simply as the “Country Club,” the organization was established in 1890 and its heyday extended into the early 20th century.

Country Club members at their annual Bull’s Head Breakfast, circa 1892. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

“The magnificent hunting territory of the Country Club” is described in a July 14, 1898 Marin Journal piece:

Bounded by the Pacific Ocean and Tomales Bay on three sides, and with its eastern border skirted by the pretty stream known as Olema Creek, there lies in Marin County, five and thirty miles from the city, a principality of 76,000 acres, belonging to the Old Shafter and Howard families, tenanted by the Country Club and dedicated to sport. By nature a preserve abounding in wild game and fish, systematic protection is now afforded to the indigenous species…. It was in the year 1890 that certain members of the Pacific Union Club interested in shooting and fishing took steps to form a separate institution for sporting purposes, and secured the shooting and fishing privileges of the Shafter and Howard ranches for the new organization which was formed as the Country Club.

Crescent Lake (today called Crystal Lake) stocked with fish for the enjoyment of Country Club members, circa 1892. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

A November 23, 1893 Marin Journal article elaborates further:

The hills and mountain sides abound in deer. The lakes are stocked with salmon, trout and bass. The clubhouse itself is beautifully located. From its broad verandahs the eye rests on large well-trimmed lawns in front, and beyond mountains rise on every side…. The cuisine is excellent. Everything eatable and drinkable is at hand and prepared and served by skilful chefs and deft servants. If one has a mood to read, the library can supply him with every variety of literature…. The billiard tables are the best. The lounges are soft and wide. The fireplaces are cheerful caverns. In the social hall the head of a great bull moose lifts its immense antlers…. There are accommodations for thirty-five guests. The stables are well appointed with all kinds of vehicles, driving or saddle horses. In the kennels scores of dogs bay their welcome…. Membership of the club is limited to 125. Formerly the membership was limited to 100, but the pressure became so great that the number was increased.

Country Club members trap shooting in Bear Valley, circa 1892. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

Membership began to dwindle during World War I and by the middle of the Depression, membership was down to about 5. Local historian Dewey Livingston tells me that in the early 1950s, the Clubhouse buildings — then in disrepair- were razed by the owners of the Bear Valley Ranch.

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