Sausalito: San Francisco Bay-Delta Model

Apparently, back in the 1950’s, engineers were considering building two dams in the San Francisco Bay to create fresh water reservoirs, right in the bay.  Luckily, the US Army Corps of Engineers decided it would be a good idea to study the potential impacts that such a huge undertaking might have, both environmentally and economically, on the surrounding communities.  So, in 1957, they built the San Francisco Bay-Delta Model, a 1.5 acre, three-dimensional model of the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta.  Ultimately, the model was proof that damming the bay would be a catastrophe, but the model has since been useful in other ways.  Among the many things scientists and engineers have used the model to study since include the movement of pollution and oil spills and the potential impact landfill or other barriers could have on tidal flows.  With the advent of computers and computer-based modeling, such a large-scale model is no longer necessary.

Today, the facility has become an educational center, teaching visitors about the natural and cultural history of the San Francisco Bay Watershed.  The model simulates tidal flows and currents, providing the opportunity to see a 24-hour tidal cycle in less than fifteen minutes.  Visitors may explore the facility on their own, listen to an audio tour, or organize a tour.  In addition to seeing the huge model in action, there are also many interactive exhibits that teach about local geography, ecology, hydrology, history, and more. We found the From the Mountains to the Sea exhibit to be a great way to show our five-year-old son how the watershed works, from snowmelt in the Sierras all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Perhaps you’d like to attend a class?  Within the next two months, you can find ranger-led programs about the ocean and sea life, the history of the delta, and many other topics.  To see a current list of upcoming classes, click here… Calendar.

Visiting with kids?  The museum offers a Junior Ranger program, which would be a fun way to explore the museum with children.  See details and a booklet download here… US Army Corps of Engineers Junior Ranger Program.

Admission is free!

Here are a few photos from our visit on Saturday….

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Interested in going?  The Bay Model is located in Sausalito (2100 Bridgeway).  Admission is free!  For current hours, please visit the website… Hours.  For all other information, check out the website.. Bay Model Visitor Center.  Pack a picnic lunch… there are plenty of picnic tables in front of the museum with beautiful views of the harbor and bay.  Enjoy!


  1. I enjoy reading through an article that will make men and women think.
    Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!


    1. You’re welcome, Kate. Glad you enjoyed what I wrote.


  2. brucethomasw says:

    Hi Linda. My wife Fran and I visited the Bay area for 5 days a couple years ago. The California ‘water story’ is fascinating to us and after a few trips through north and south Calif. I’m finially figuring the myriad systems of damns, aquedusts, pumps etc. When we pasedd through sausalito we stopped by the army corp of engineers bay and delta area exhibit, but it was closed for refurbishmnet. Thanks for giving a glimpse of it in this blog. Both ‘guys’ look fascinated, and your son is very cute. Thanks for sharing this.


    1. Too bad it was closed! It really helps explain how the water systems work throughout Northern and Central California. And I agree, California has an interesting water history. I love the Jack Nicholson movie, Chinatown.


  3. A fun and educational place to visit. I stayed overnight with friends in Sausalito once. That was about 9 years ago. Perhaps it’s time to visit San Francisco. My son was born in California but grew up in Texas. He’s curious what it looks like.


    1. If you make it back to Sausalito with the family, you absolutely have to visit the Bay Area Discovery Museum. It’s an incredible children’s museum, with gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge. So fun!


  4. Looks like a great place to take the kids.


    1. It’s an interesting museum! They say there isn’t anything else like it.


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