Features of The Preserve


HIGHEST POINTS: A survey marker placed by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1852, marks one of two high points on Mare Island’s 384 foot hill. The U.S. Coast Guard maintains a communications tower on the more westerly peak. From here you can see the outline of the original 900-acre island expanded by the Navy to nearly 5,600 acres through fill. Fabulous 360 degree views of seven counties including Mt. Tamalpais, Mt. Diablo, Mt. St. Helena, the East Bay hills, the Marin Coastal hills, and the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Photo taken during the February 2008 Lunar Eclipse event.

The RUINS OF THE MARE ISLAND GROUNDSKEEPER’S HOME AND  TERRACED GARDENS: You will see the home’s foundation and garden remains on your left, through the trees. Volunteers have spent the last year removing french and scotch broom, an invasive, non-native plant that threatens the garden both by choking out the original plantings and because it can easily catch fire.


The first NAVAL CEMETERY in the Pacific, founded in 1858. Take time to walk through it and honor those who served, including three Medal of Honor recipients, 15 crew of the Protected Cruiser Boston, who died in an explosion in 1892, and the visit the graves of Anna Key Turner, daughter of Frances Scott Key, author of the national anthem and Kate C. McDougal, the lighthouse keeper for 35 years. Last interment was authorized in 1921. Members of the Vallejo Rose Society are replanting donated roses along the fence during the spring of 2010.


Note the bomb shelter next to the road for the naval officers and key ordnance personnel who lived in the HISTORIC HOMES beyond the fence. The house closest to the fence, built in 1860, is the oldest residence on Mare Island.

On your right, imagine the thousands of elk that were seen to cross the Napa River by the first explorers and maybe a glimpse of a mare.

“…We went ashore and breakfasted at Mare Island; ... This Island is famous for being the resort of a large herd of these animals, which are invariably accompanied by a wild mare, who has found her way thither. But although we saw the beautiful band, feeding in company with their equine friend, we could not get near enough for a shot, owing to the inconsiderate haste and wild eagerness of our sailors who prematurely rushed forward and discovered themselves to the swift-footed and timorous game. But better than the slaughter of these innocents was the exciting and novel spectacle they presented as they dashed off under the lead of the fleet mare and fled far far away into the low lands, stretching well towards the main, until at length they faded from sight in the morass inaccessible to human footsteps.” –– June 14, 1846, Lt. Joseph Warren Revere, USN, who visited San Francisco Bay and Mare Island aboard the sloop-of-war, USS Portsmouth, (Revere,1849)


Below the houses near the loading dock and pier, is the oldest naval arsenal in the Pacific, the NAVAL AMMUNITION DEPOT founded in 1857. The houses, this complex of buildings and the cemetery, make up the Naval Ammunition Depot Historic District, part of the Mare Island National Historic Landmark designation by the National Park Service – the highest rank it gives a historic site in America.


VIEW POINT of the Carquinez Strait and south shoreline ... pause to watch the ships and birds pass by. Listen for the sound of train whistles from across the Strait.


The ORDNANCE RESERVOIR formed behind an earth fill dam with a brick spillway, was used for recreation and supplied water for the fire suppression system in the Naval Ammunition Depot. With no creeks on the Island, a network of “filling ditches” following the contours of the hills was constructed to direct runoff from winter rains to the reservoir. Due to salt intrusion, there was reportedly only one potable well on Mare Island.


The eucalyptus grove below and to the right beyond the fence is the location of the lighthouse. Built in 1872, the lighthouse ended its service in 1916 and was demolished by the Navy in 1930.


VIEWPOINT, a higher view of the straits. Catch you breath and enjoy the gleaming water and surrounding countryside. Before you are the bridges of the Carquinez Strait. The California Maritime Academy is nestled below the northern anchorages. The first bridge to span the San Francisco Bay was built across the Strait in 1927, joined by a second bridge in 1958. In 2003, the oldest bridge was replaced by the Al Zampa Memorial Bridge, the first suspension bridge built in the America in 30 years and the first to be named after a blue-collar worker.


“THE SPIRIT SHIP” is an Art Tribute dedicated to the workers of Mare Island Naval Shipyard marking the closure of the Shipyard in 1996. The sculpture has a “dog tag” for many of the ships built and repaired on Mare Island.

BUNKERS AND WEST SIDE VIEWS of San Pablo Bay, Mt. Tamalpais and the Western Magazine– built on fill of the open bay, beginning in the mid 1920’s. Along this route you will see munition storage bunkers built into the hillside, part of a honeycomb of bunkers throughout the hill.


The Preserve Features are presented as you would come upon them as you walk up the road to the the scenic hilltop.

Anise Swallowtail

As we convert the former Ammunition Depot to parkland, we strive to both preserve its beauty and honor its service to our nation. In his invocation at the Mare Island Naval Ammunition Depot 150th Anniversary Ceremony, August 10, 2007, Chaplain John Berger, US Navy (Ret) said it this way:

“…God, we pause to visualize this island in your “yesterday”– when you first planned it: trees and grasses, hillocks and swales, tidal waters and marshes, the call of the birds, beasts and many creatures – a pastoral scene which made the place so very pleasing to the mind and eye. We give you thanks for such a land as this...

Today we are made aware of the making of a new day. It would seem to me that the mission of yesterday would merge with that pastoral delight created by you – into a new day fit for your blessing and for our tomorrows.

But, let us not forget to remember – to remember to remember: the lives and dreams and hopes of those who lived and labored here.”


PARK HEADQUARTERS BUILDING A-167: Building A-167 is a former magazine, an above ground building designed to store munitions. Remnants remain of rail lines used to transport munitions from storage to the pier for loading onto ships. You will see it at the entrance to the park.


Historic TENNIS COURT: Net posts and striping are still visible on the asphalt. Enjoy a picnic in the shade of the trees that have grown through the court; we have developed an informal group picnic area on the court.


Mare Island Heritage Trust

816 Branciforte Street

Vallejo, CA 94590              


contact  us


Pretty large file! 
pdf version of the guide to the Preserve with text and images shown below and an aerial map. (5.1 MB)Features_files/MIGuideCURRENTAug2010.pdfFeatures_files/MIGuideCURRENTAug2010_1.pdfshapeimage_1_link_0