This small park is sandwiched between downtown Martinez and the Carquinez Strait. Freighters slide by and the Benicia Bridge gleams across the water, while trains rumble between marsh and town, stopping at the AmTrak station next to Granger’s Wharf. The wetlands here are a human construct, developed in 2002 to alleviate flooding and as mitigation for the new Carquinez Bridge. But its 2 or 3 mile maze of trails is an inviting place to watch waterfowl. Pickleweed Boardwalk Trail crosses the marsh to an arched wooden bridge over Alhambra Creek, then wanders near the weedy land's edge. Look for scaups and buffleheads in winter, or even secretive black rails. Low tide exposes mud flats where avocets and willets forage.
Here what seems like the skeleton of a whale lies half-buried in muddy sand. It turns out to be the remains of another creature of the sea: the Forester, a four-masted schooner that hauled lumber and other freight around the Pacific through the first quarter of the 20th century, and later was retired to Martinez by her captain, who lived on board until 1947. Despite preservation efforts, the vessel burned almost to the waterline in 1975. Only its keel and ribs–and a plaque telling its history–remain.
Getting there: Take the Alhambra Valley Road exit from Highway 4, go north to Escobar. Turn right on Escobar, right on Ferry St., and left into the park. Or ride Amtrak to Martinez; the station is at the park entrance. No fee; bikes are permitted on trails; dogs are not.
Originally published in Bay Nature Magazine October 2008