The San Francisco Bay is the largest estuary on the West Coast of the U.S. where fresh water from the Central Valley mixes with the salt water of the Pacific. Crabs, clams, fish and birds live in its deepwater channels, marshes and tidelands.

We all live in a watershed

The San Francisco Bay Area once was a paradise for shorebirds, waterfowl, oysters and salmon. Today, debris, gravel and plastic clog its shores and depths, making it one of the most altered aquatic ecosystems in the country. Water no long runs free into the bay. We have paved over marshland, dammed rivers and channeled creeks.

It doesn’t have to stay that way. People around the Bay Area are working together to clean up their watersheds, to restore habitats for native species and to leave a legacy of healthier watersheds for future generations.

What is a watershed?


The dictionary defines a watershed as the area of land that drains rainwater into a common body of water such as a creek or bay. The Bay Area Watershed is made up of many small watersheds, each collecting rainfall and waste water that ultimately flows to the Bay. All of the water we use in the Bay Area flows directly to the Bay or the Pacific Ocean.

But a watershed is more. It is the interdependent web of living organisms that inhabit a geographic area and depend on it for clean soil, air and water. Everything we do, from mountaintop to marsh, affects the health of local water, soil, air, wildlife, our families and communities.


The watershed movement is growing fast. The first local creek and watershed groups started a decade ago; today there are more than 50 active groups in the Bay Area. Neighbors are coming together to understand, restore and protect their local creeks, lakes, wetlands and estuaries.

It is easy to get involved and join this movement. You can start by finding your local watershed using the Oakland Museum of California's San Francisco Bay Area Graphic Creek and Watershed Finder. Then, get in touch with watershed and creek groups working in your area.

If you would like help finding your watershed or learning about citizen-based groups in your area, feel free to email us or call 510.665.3430.

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it is attached to the rest of the world.”
John Muir