Trail Description and Views
The area along the Bay north of the mouth of San Lorenzo Creek in San Leandro was once known as Roberts Landing. This was the site of Alameda County's first shipping venture. Captain William Roberts established the port in 1851 to take locally-grown hay, fruits, and vegetables across the Bay to San Francisco. Warehouses and docks were built here along the slough. Flat-bottomed two-masted scow scooners sailed in and out of the slough at high tide. Roberts Landing lasted until the 1870's. It was put out of business, like many other transportation ventures on the Bay, by the transcontinental railroad.
In 1900, this area became the site of the Trojan Powder Works, which operated here until 1963. It produced ammunition during World War I and made explosives which were used in the construction of the Panama Canal. Marshes were diked and filled for the powder factory. In later years, the rich, fertile marsh soil here was used for farming. Dikes were built to create dry land for farming. This caused the remaining marsh lands to sink, which increased their salinity and reduced their productivity. These developments altered and destroyed the original marsh environment.
Currently, new housing developments are being built here. However, the developers have cooperated with the city of San Leandro to restore 406 acres of the historic marshland between the new housing and the Bay. Fill was removed, and dikes were lowered and removed. Channels were built to provide tidal flow to the farthest reaches of the marsh. This has improved conditions for marsh vegetation and wildlife, including the endangered clapper rail and salt marsh harvest mouse. New paved trails, with interpretive kiosks and benches have been built here to provide access to San Lorenzo Creek, the marsh, sloughs, and the Bay.
The Bay Trail in San Leandro from San Lorenzo Creek to Marina Park runs through the restored marsh next to the new subdivision, follows right along the edge of the Bay, crosses a flood control channel, and ends up at Marina Park. It passes by pickleweed marshes, sloughs, mudflats, and sandy and rocky beaches. The trail is paved and wide for its entire length. It is very popular with joggers, skaters, bicyclists, and families out for a stroll. Near the Bay, a wide dirt trail runs next to the paved trail. Near Marina Park, the trail runs between the Bay and a golf course. A unmarked network of dirt and gravel trails provides access to different parts of the marsh and the Bayshore. The dirt trails are only accessible to walkers and bicyclists, so are less crowded.
All the wetland areas along the trail are connected to the Bay, so they are under tidal influence. Their appearance and conditions are greatly affected by the tides. At high tides, the sloughs and marshes fill with water, while the Bay laps against the riprap-protected shoreline. At low tides, mudflats appear on the edges of the slough. The shoreline by the bayshore extends far out into the Bay on sandbars, rocky shoals, and mudflats.
The virtual tour below starts on the new Heron Bay Trail, heads to San Lorenzo Creek, explores the Roberts Landing marsh area on dirt trails, heads along the paved Bay Trail to the edge of Marina Park, and returns. The next segment of the Bay Trail to the north begins at Marina Park, runs around the San Leandro Marina, uses city streets for a short section, then enters Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline. North of here is Oakland International Airport.
The bridge across San Lorenzo Creek was destroyed by the El Nino floods of 1998. Since it was rebuilt the fall of 1999, the Bay Trail is a continuous off-road trail from the visitor's center at the Hayward Shoreline, all the way to San Leandro's Marina Park.
The most direct route to the trailhead is from the end of Lewelling Blvd. Take the Hesperian off-ramp from I-880 to Lewelling westbound. Follow Lewelling across the railroad tracks. It turns into Bayfront Drive and ends at the intersection with Heron Drive. A small park and interpretive displays are at the intersection. Heed the private parking signs. The paved trail begins here and heads west towards the Bay.
The trail can be taken from the northern end at Marina Park. Take the Marina Blvd. exit from I-880 and head west. Marina turns left at Neptune Drive. Take Neptune Drive south until it ends at Marina Park. Park here. Cross the bridge over the flood control channel at the south end of the park to reach the trail heading towards San Lorenzo Creek.
Click on the following pictures to see a larger version.
(Note: the mileage readings below are from a bicycle odometer. Your mileage may vary.)
The trail begins at the small, newly-built park at the intersection of Bayfront Drive and Heron Drive. The park has lawns, trees, benches, and gardens. A small stand here has interpretive signs describing the history of the area and the marsh restoration. The paved trails between the housing development and the large slough through the marsh are part of the Heron Bay Trail. Interpretive kiosks are placed periodically along the trail and provide more information on the natural and human history of the area. Follow the paved path west.
At 0.14 miles, the trail comes to a junction. Straight ahead leads to the Bay. The trail to the left leads to San Lorenzo Creek. Take the trail to the left. This passes between the new housing development and the restored marsh. At 0.35 miles, the path passes by a fenced-off stormwater-filtering pond. Several paths along the way lead into the local neighborhood. At 0.57 miles, the trail reaches the banks of San Lorenzo Creek. The paved path follows the creek to the right. At 0.80 miles, the paved trail ends at the bridge over San Lorenzo Creek. It connects to the Bay Trail along the Hayward Shoreline. If you do not want to or cannot proceed on dirt and gravel trails, turn around here and backtrack to the turnoff from the main trail, then head west towards the Bay. Otherwise, continue straight ahead.
A gravel path leads farther downstream along the creek, then turns right into the marsh. A narrow informal footpath continues along the bank of the creek, but becomes muddy before it reaches the mouth of the slough channel on the creek. Several dirt trails lead through the marsh to the north. A large slough channel cuts inland and parallels the bayshore. Take the largest dirt trail to the right. The first branch to the left will be used for a return trip. Stay to the right.
The main trail roughly follows the winding path of the slough. It passes between two marshy areas, with ponds and channels on both sides. To the left of the trail near a shallow tidal pool are debris piles of driftwood, old lumber, and broken concrete. At 1.04 miles, the trail reaches a T-junction by a bend in the slough.
Turn left and take the side trail that heads west and deadends at the edge of the slough at 1.12 miles. Trails on the opposite side of the slough are visible. To the right, the slough takes two large branches, one heading east down along the main trail, and the other heading out west to run along the Bayshore. The latter branch will be explored on the return trip. Turn around and head back east.
Heading back from the slough, take the side trail that branches off to the right at 1.14 miles. This trail runs through a wetter part of the marsh and may be muddy in places, especially during high tides. (If it's too muddy, backtrack to the main trail.) At 1.31 miles, it reaches the main dirt trail near San Lorenzo Creek. Turn left and head down the main trail again. At 1.46 miles, it reaches the T-junction at the edge of the slough again. Turn right this time and pass by or over an old abandoned bridge at the edge of the slough.
On the right side of the trail, a shallow slough runs next to the trail. Wading birds, like egrets, stilts, and herons, can be seen feeding here. In the background is the wide pickleweed marsh, with the new housing development behind it.
The path continues to follow the slough. Where the slough goes under a bridge at 1.80 miles, the dirt trail reaches the main paved trail heading towards the Bay again. Turn left at the paved trail and head towards the bridge.
At 1.84 miles, the wide paved trail crosses over the wooden bridge. The slough passes under the bridge and drains into the huge marsh north of the trail. Just past the bridge, dirt paths branch off to the left and right and follow along the slough. The paved trail continues to head towards the Bay. Continue along the paved trail.
At 2.02 miles, the trail passes a Bay Trail sign and turns right to follow along the edge of the Bay. At the bend, a wide dirt trail heads off to the left to follow along the Bay towards San Lorenzo Creek. For now, follow the paved trail to the right.
To the north, the waters of the Bay lap against the rocks lining the edge of the trail at high tide. Low tide reveals a narrow sandy beach, strewn with rocks, driftwood, and jetsam. The wide paved trail is paralled by a dirt trail. Inland, a small channel in the marsh follows the trail.
At 2.30 miles, the trail passes over 4 large pipes that feed clear waters from the Bay into the marsh. Along the outlet on the Bay, the shoreline is rimmed by a narrow sandy beach.
At 2.53 miles, the trail reaches the end of the large marsh and the southwest end of the Tony Lema Golf Course. The golf course is on dry land raised above the marsh. The slough channel turns inland at the edge of the golf course. Wading birds find this a rich feeding ground.
A long, narrow wet marsh separates the trail from the golf course. The trail and shoreline curves to the left around a cove and follows along the end of the narrow marsh.
Sandbars reach far into the Bay here at this cove at low tide. They are easily accessible from the shore and provide access to the Bay waters. The rocky shoreline is revealed. At high tide, the Bay waters splash against the rocks protecting the shoreline at the edge of the trail.
At 2.79 miles, the trail passes a point of land jutting into the Bay, topped by a small hill. Paths lead up to the brush-covered hilltop.
At the top of the hill is a bench, provided by the city of San Leandro. This is a good spot for viewing the shoreline and the Bay. Just to the north, planes can be seen landing at the Oakland International Airport. Across the Bay are the Santa Cruz Mountains, the hills and skyline of San Francisco, and the Bay Bridge. To the south, the long, low San Mateo-Hayward Bridge crosses the Bay.
At 3.18 miles, the marsh to the right of the trail ends, and the dirt road paralling the trail splits off to the right. A grass median separates the paved and dirt trails. This is the begining of an off-leash dog running area. An interpretive sign here talks about the wetlands.
At 3.47 miles, just past a water treatment facility, the trail reaches a bridge over the wide Estudillo Flood Control Canal. The bridge leads to Marina Park and the end of Neptune Drive.
The northern reach of this tour ends at the edge of popular, busy Marina Park. To continue on, see the Marina Park tour. Otherwise, turn around and head back down the trail.
Backtracking, at 5.04 miles, where the paved trail turns back inland, take the dirt road straight ahead. The road runs between the Bay and a wide, winding slough. Along the slough are old 3-sided concrete structures.
The muddy and rocky shoreline turns into a wide sandy beach here. A beach of this size and quality is rare on the Bay, but it's likely to be deserted. Driftwood lines the beaches.
The sandy beach turns into thick stands of grass, sandbars, and mudflats closer to the mouth of San Lorenzo Creek, making further travel along the shore difficult.
The dirt trail turns inland as it follows the slough. At 5.35 miles, it deadends at the slough. Across the slough is the end of the trail seen earlier at 2.12 miles. Narrow footpaths lead farther down the slough, but the ground may be muddy. The footing gets softer, and the pickleweed gets thicker the closer the slough gets to San Lorenzo Creek.
Backtrack to the main trail and head straight inland back to the start of the trail or explore some of the side trails along the way. If you stay until the end of the day, you can enjoy the sun setting over the Bay, with the skyline of San Francisco silhouetted on the horizon.