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Benicia State Recreation Area is a California, USA, tidal wetland defense state park unit. It is located 2 miles (3.2 km) west of downtown Benicia and borders Vallejo’s Glen Cove community in the Solano County town of Benicia. Along the narrowest section of the Carquinez Strait, the park contains 447 acres (181 ha) of the marsh, grassy hillsides, and rocky beaches. Southampton Creek and the Southampton Bay tidal marsh, where the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers’ combined waters approach San Pablo Bay, the northern part of San Francisco Bay.


The cove north and west of Benicia Puerto de las Asunta (Assumption Harbor in Spanish) was named by Don José de Cañizares, a diarist on the 1769 overland Portola expedition who sailed with Don Juan Manuel de Ayala on the San Carlos, the first ship to reach San Francisco Bay on August 5, 1775, since he found it on that festival day in 1775. On Cañizares’ famous 1781 map of San Francisco Bay, the cove is noted as “J”. The present name, Southampton Bay, is for the Southampton Navy Frigate, which was sailed to the cove in 1849 by Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones along with a small fleet.

The sandstone point was known as Rocky Point, Quarry Point, and now as Dillon Point at Benicia SRA. Stonecutter Patrick Dillon came from Tipperary, Ireland, to California during the 1849 California Gold Rush, settling in 1851 in Benicia. The tidal flat at Southampton Bay and Rocky Point peninsula was leased by General Vallejo to Dillon for a sandstone quarry. The Dillon family and subsequent owners raised sheep and grapes as the sandstone played out until the State purchased the land in 1967.

Habitat and wildlife

70 percent of the park is made up of the Southampton Bay Wetland Natural Preserve. The Southampton mudflat created eroded deposits of upriver silt and clay greater than 1,000 feet (300 m) thick. Brackish marsh, saltwater marsh, and freshwater marsh are the principal ecosystems here. Marsh plants such as saltgrass (Distichlis spicata), pickleweed (Batis maritima), coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis), and soft bird’s-beak cover this rare and endangered wetland habitat (Cordylanthus mollis). The bird’s-beak in the snapdragon family is an endangered gray-green annual herb.

Park mammals include northern salt marsh harvest rats, which are federally endangered (Reithrodontomys raviventris halicoetes). The coyote (Canis latrans), river otter (Lontra canadensis), muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) and California golden beaver are other animals living in the park (Castor canadensis subauratus). The beaver is likely to have migrated in 2007 from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Historically, the Delta possibly contained the largest concentration of beavers in North America before the California Fur Rush of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. More than any other single factor, it was California’s early fur trade that opened up the West, and especially the San Francisco Bay Area, to world trade. In 1840, explorer Captain Thomas Farnham wrote that “There is probably no spot of equal extent in the whole continent of America which contains so many of these much sought animals.”

An important bird area, providing habitat for endangered California clapper rails (Rallus longirostris obsoletus) and black rails, has been designated by Benicia SRA (Laterallus jamaicensis). Virginia rails (Rallus limicola), Suisun song sparrows (Melospiza melodia maxillaris) and salt marsh common yellowthroat are other uncommon birds (Geothlypis trichas sinuosa). Many waterfowl winter in the park on their path along the Pacific Flyway.

This amazing landmark in Benicia, California is located near some other must-see places of interest:

  • Benicia Capitol State Historic Park
  • Glass Beach
  • Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns 
  • Benicia Arsenal
  • Benicia Main Street: First Street
  • Lindsay Art Glass
  • 9th Street Park (AKA the 9th Street Pier) 
  • Fischer Hanlon House

All of these wonderful landmarks are located just a short distance from our location at 1091 Shary Circle in Concord, California! Stop by for a visit anytime!

By Geraoma - Own work, Public Domain,