Bolinas Lagoon Restoration

Bolinas Lagoon landscape

Bolinas Lagoon is a world-renowned tidal estuary with unique habitats and ecosystem services that support wildlife and people. Due to historical impacts to the lagoon and worsening climate change impacts, there is a great need to support the natural resilience of the lagoon’s habitats through targeted conservation and restoration projects. Greater Farallones Association works in partnership with Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary to implement a holistic ecosystem approach to restoration of the Lagoon with a shared vision of sustainability and resilience. The 2008 Bolinas Lagoon Ecosystem Restoration Project: Recommendations for Restoration and Management (Locally Preferred Plan), developed through a working group of scientists, local stakeholders, environmental groups, and state and federal agencies, guides these efforts. Together, GFA and its partners prioritize and implement projects from the Locally Preferred Plan to protect the lagoon’s current resources and strengthen its resilience and adaptability to future changes.

For over ten years we have worked to implement projects and, thanks to support from local Stinson Beach, Seadrift, and Bolinas communities, we continue to achieve significant restoration success. Scroll down to read about current restoration projects and volunteer opportunities. Check back for announcements on upcoming meetings and events. For more information about the program, visit Past Lectures and Meetings and read previous issues of the Bolinas Lagoon Bulletin, including information on how to sign up so you can receive the next issue.

Current Restoration Projects

Bolinas Lagoon project map

Locations of Bolinas Program projects.

South End Living Shorelines Project

San Andreas Fault

Wetland and transitional marsh (gradual blending of habitat types from intertidal to upland) provide critical habitat and are crucial for protecting wildlife from the impacts of flooding and erosion, yet they continue to degrade and are increasingly threatened by climate change. Historical impacts at Bolinas Lagoon have diminished much of its wetland and marsh habitat. Most of Bolinas Lagoon’s perimeter is hardened by development, which limits the width of shoreline habitat and restricts its ability to shift upslope as water levels rise. This results in a loss of transition zones, and increasingly eroding and unnaturally steep shorelines. Climate change is exacerbating this erosion and habitat loss through sea-level rise and increased precipitation and storm events. 

Enhancing the existing shoreline and restoring transitional marsh is critical for the long-term health and resilience of Bolinas Lagoon and its wildlife. Greater Farallones Association and Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries are co-leading the South End Living Shorelines Project to enhance important wetland and upland marsh along the Dipsea Road and Calle del Arroyo Road shoreline, one of the only remaining locations with adequate space to accommodate transitional habitat. Wildlife and human communities in this area already face impacts from flooding and erosion, and this project will reconnect and rebuild those critical habitats to not only improve the lagoon’s southern shoreline, but the overall health and resilience of the Bolinas Lagoon ecosystem. See the 2019 Technical Memo.

What Is a Living Shoreline?

Living shorelines encompass a range of strategies for protecting and restoring important transitional marsh and wetland habitat along estuaries, bays, tributaries, and other sheltered coastal systems. These innovative techniques utilize natural construction materials (native plants, woody debris) to help habitats adapt to future environmental impacts while preserving ecosystem services. Greater Farallones Association prioritizes implementation of living shorelines to protect and safeguard sanctuary coastlines against future changes. Nature-based methods provide several benefits to our marine resources including:

  • Refuge, food, nesting and nursery sites for fish and wildlife;
  • Connectivity between upland habitat and water resources;
  • Protection against flooding from storm surge and sea-level rise;
  • Improved water quality by filtering runoff pollution;
  • Carbon capture and storage; and
  • Enhanced recreation, education, and wildlife viewing opportunities.

Invasive Green Crab Removal

Bucket of invasive green crabs removed from Seadrift Lagoon. Credit: Lindsay Hayashigatani

Greater Farallones Association, in partnership with UC Davis and Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, leads the removal of invasive European green crabs in Seadrift Lagoon, a man-made lagoon tidally linked to Bolinas Lagoon. The green crab is a highly adaptable predator originating from Western Europe and Africa, and first appeared on the US West Coast in 1989. These invaders threaten native species and marine habitat by eating shrimp, clams, oysters, and small Dungeness crabs, which are important food sources for birds and critical to the economic stability of local commercial fisheries.

Since 2009, volunteers have participated in the removal of thousands of green crabs at Seadrift Lagoon, reviving biodiversity and reducing the threat of spread to Bolinas Lagoon. This community-building project increases local knowledge of the threats posed by aquatic invaders, and fosters stewardship of West Marin’s ecological resources. Plus, all removed crabs are donated to local farms for use as fertilizer; the crabs bring important nutrient and mineral content back to the soil, making this a truly surf-to-turf project! Sign up to volunteer for Green Crab removal and help us protect Bolinas Lagoon while supporting local farms.

Kent Island Restoration

Kent Island Restoration project underway. Several people in a field on a small island in Bolinas Lagoon pulling weeds.

Kent Island is a dune capped barrier island on the interior of Bolinas Lagoon that is a geomorphic feature unique to California. Historically, Kent Island’s plants adapted to saltwater inundation, sand burial, and erosion, allowing the island to recover from storms and earthquakes, and changing shape depending on wind, wave, and geologic factors. In recent years, invasive plants have impacted the function and health of Kent Island, shifting native plant communities and causing the island to grow.

The project includes hand-removing nonnative plants such as fennel, ice plant, French broom, and European beachgrass that are anchoring the island and trapping unwanted sediment. Removing invasives helps restore the island’s naturally-shifting dune habitat, facilitates return of native plants and the animals that depend on them for food and shelter, and improves water and sediment transport throughout Bolinas Lagoon. Thanks to the project, captured sediment is being released and native plants are returning to Kent Island.

From 2013 through 2022, Greater Farallones Association, in partnership with Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, Marin County Parks, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and hard-working volunteers, implemented the Kent Island Restoration Project. The project is now managed by Marin County. This important effort would not be possible without the help of volunteers who have successfully restored over 20 acres of habitat since 2013. Removal seasons generally occur from April through October each year, and are a great way for the public to actively support the Greater Farallones Marine Sanctuary and help restore a local ocean ecosystem. See the Marin County website for information on volunteering opportunities.

Bolinas Program News & Events

Project staff and volunteers sit on a dock above Seadrift Lagoon surrounded by various tubs and clipboards working to count and collect data on invasive green crabs removed from the lagoon. Credit: Lindsay Hayashigatani

Volunteer Opportunities

Help us remove invasive species and restore Bolinas Lagoon.

Check back soon for 2024 volunteer dates!

A hand holds an invasive green crab upside down above a bucket filled with more removed invasive crabs.

September 2023 GFA News—Across the globe, human activities have unintentionally introduced invasive species to ecosystems, disrupting natural function and causing significant ecological, economic, and social damage. Invasive species, as the name suggests, are non-native organisms that invade and establish themselves in ecosystems beyond their natural range. Within Bolinas Lagoon, a Ramsar Wetland of International Significance located within Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, invasive green crabs pose a significant threat. Read more

Bolinas Lagoon shoreline.

An Afternoon at the Lagoon is an online series celebrating Bolinas Lagoon. All virtual events are free, fun, and informative, highlighting the habitat and wildlife of this globally-recognized lagoon. 

View past event details and recordings.

Aerial photo of Bolinas Lagoon.

State of the Lagoon Public Meeting

On June 23, 2021, the Bolinas Lagoon Advisory Council, a council of the Marin County Board of Supervisors, hosted the State of Bolinas Lagoon public meeting. This biannual event highlights important information on the projects and initiatives happening in and around Bolinas Lagoon. The 2021 meeting included presentations on project status updates, responsible recreation and stewardship, wildlife monitoring programs, and wildfire safety. 

Two GFA staff members conducting sediment sampling at on the shore of Bolinas Lagoon surrounded by tall grass.

Dig In! Sampling Sediment in Bolinas Lagoon

March 2020 GFA News—Greater Farallones Association works to remove harmful invasive plants and animals from Bolinas Lagoon. But another important part of restoring natural habitat requires digging a little deeper. Sediment on California’s beaches and wetlands face impacts like erosion from climate change and sea level rise. Our team recently collected sediment samples as part of a local sediment characterization project for Bolinas Lagoon. Testing these samples will help determine the type and abundance of sediment materials around the Lagoon from mud to soil to sand. Understanding the makeup of materials in and around the Lagoon helps classify the South End Project area and identifies locations of other material types for potential use in future sand and sediment restoration projects. Learn about our Bolinas Lagoon Restoration and Ocean Climate Programs to explore how sediment plays a big part in our coastal environment.

Living shorelines workshop

The Association Co-hosts First-ever North-central California Living Shorelines Workshop

April 2020 GFA News—This month, the Association, in partnership with the Sanctuary, SFNERR, State Coastal Conservancy, and SF State’s Estuary & Ocean Science Center, held the first-ever North-central California Outer Coast Living Shoreline and Resilience Workshop. The event was an educational and capacity-building workshop on the state of the science and best practices around living shoreline (i.e. nature-based or green infrastructure) adaptation strategies for our coast. Participants included local county, state, and federal agencies alongside key community members, engineers, and scientists. Together, participants discussed the need for nature-based approaches to coastal protection, and helped advance dialogue and coordination on living shoreline project planning for our region.