San Rafael Canal: Community’s Lifeline

by Laurie Thompson

San Rafael residents Beatrice Howitt and Alice Oge at the San Rafael Canal September 1913. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

The December 12, 1907 Marin Journal highlights the dredging of the San Rafael Canal as vital to the community’s transportation, commerce and recreation needs:

San Rafael Canal which is being Dredged by State & City

In the early days the only way to reach San Rafael was by boat. Passengers and freight were landed at San Quentin and brought by stage to the town. Previous to that, small boats came up San Rafael Creek, landing near what is now B Street.

Time filled up a part of the channel and several years ago a new channel was dredged from the embarcadero near the city limits to Irwin Street.

This channel and the creek proper has been gradually filling up so as to interfere with boat travel. Our citizens have taken hold of the matter, however, and are arranging to dredge the channel from Irwin Street out to the Bay waters, and straighten the creek by cutting a new channel across the gooseneck bend.

A part of the work is now being done, the city trustees having awarded one contract. Arrangements are almost complete for the state engineering department to award a $12,000. contract, our citizens having contributed half the cost. When completed, good sized boats and freight schooners will be enabled to land near the Union Depot [near today’s Whistlestop].

Alice Oge bathing in the San Rafael Canal, Sept. 1913. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

As a Yachting Resort

Its completion will also mean that our city will become a favorite rendezvous for pleasure yachts and gasoline launches. The San Rafael Development Company…have big plans for making extensive improvements and creating a great resort. The old channel around the bend in the creek, which lies opposite the new golf links, will be improved and the creek, together with the surroundings, converted into a little paradise. Nature has done much and this wealthy syndicate will do more. They own 600 acres east of the city which is being laid off into villa lots, streets have been graded, a handsome new club house has been erected for the golf club, and wealthy men are planning to erect handsome houses on the tract.

Dredging and straightening plan for the San Rafael Canal, Dec. 1907 © Marin Journal

Originally published at



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Anne T. Kent California Room

Anne T. Kent California Room


The official Medium account of the archive of Marin County history & culture at the Marin County Free Library