Tomales Point
Tomales Point

Photograph courtesy of Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary


Map of Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary

Along the coast of California north and west of San Francisco

Protected Area
1,255 square miles (3,250 square kilometers)

Date Designated
January 1981

Coastal beaches
Rocky shores
Mudflats and tidal flats
Salt marsh
Pelagic, or open, ocean
Deep benthos, continental shelf and slope

Key Species
Dungeness crab
Gray whale
Steller sea lion
Common murre
Ashy storm-petrel

Cultural Resources
Fossil beds

Every spring the cries of hundreds of thousands of cormorants, common murres, and other seabirds rise up from the craggy islets of the Gulf of the Farallones sanctuary, an expanse larger than the state of Rhode Island that lies north and west of San Francisco. In addition to hosting the largest concentration of breeding seabirds in the continental United States, the sanctuary lures thousands of seals and sea lions to its fish-laden waters.

The large marine mammal population means that the great white shark is often on the prowl, making diving a dangerous proposition. Less fearsome forms of marine life abound in the coastal mudflats, beaches, estuaries, and rocky intertidal zones that also make up this geologically and biologically diverse refuge. The sanctuary’s gently sloping seafloor is strewn with over 100 shipwrecks, of which the oldest is a 16th-century Spanish galleon.

For more information,
check out NOAA’s Gulf of the Farallones profile:

Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
Fort Mason
Building #201
San Francisco, CA 94123

Tel: +1 415 561 6622
Fax: +1 415 561 6616
Sanctuary Web site:


© 2000 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.