History and Geography

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The Gallinas Valley watershed is located in the northern part of the city of San Rafael in Marin County, California. It includes the towns of Terra Linda and Santa Venetia. The water in this watershed runs into San Pablo Bay.

Native American Coast Miwok lived throughout the Santa Margarita (Las Gallinas) valley.

The first rancho in the watershed was established in 1844 as a land grant to Timothy Murphy. The grant included three ranchos, San Pedro, Santa Margarita and y Las Gallinas, with the Santa Margarita rancho roughly corresponding to the Gallinas Creek watershed.

The topographical map on the right shows the area during the early 1900s.

When Redwood Highway became Freeway 101 in 1942, it divided our community. Terra Linda lost connection to the Civic Center area, Santa Venetia, China Camp and the Bay.

In 1996, decades after the City of San Rafael annexed Terra Linda, the City engaged in a community visioning process to learn more about what the people who live, work and play in North San Rafael would like for their community in the year 2010.

That brought about improvements to our lives such as the Merrydale Overpass and the Gateway to Terra Linda. And a Terra Linda Promenade is planned that will stretch from the swimming pool at the Terra Linda Recreation Center to the Marin Lagoon at the Civic Center. Water to water, this recreational pathway follows the water along the Gallinas Creek/Watershed course.

Terra Linda

Terra Linda, a community in a valley surrounded by green and gold publicly-preserved open space hills, is a residential and light commercial/office community that was built on what was formerly the property of the Manuel T. Freitas family, one of the original immigrant Portuguese (Spanish land-grant) owners. It was originally operated as a dairy farm. The site of the ranch house and buildings is now the site of St. Isabella’s Catholic Church and School.

Most of Terra Linda was built after World War II and was largely completed by 1970. Terra Linda is located in North San Rafael and shares Zip Code 94903 with Santa Venetia, Marinwood, and Lucas Valley. About 900 homes in Terra Linda were built by Joseph Eichler from 1955 to 1965. Terra Linda’s main streets are Las Gallinas, Freitas Parkway, and Redwood Highway. Its population is about 10,000.

The valley’s main arteries, Manuel T. Freitas Parkway and Del Ganado Road, follow Santa Margarita creek, whose bed was cemented over in the early 1960s and turned into a storm trough when the area was developed.

Freitas Parkway was originally designed to have three lanes (it currently just has two) each way to go over the ridge into the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood of San Anselmo. This design was never finished after Marin County Open Space bought the land on the ridge.

Plans are being made to restore the creek to its original state and redesign Freitas Parkway to accommodate the creek. Costs to restore the creek are estimated at $20 million.
Santa Venetia

Santa Venetia is built on marshland that was filled in 1914. See the topographical map on the right.

In the hillside behind the 7-11 store on North San Pedro Road are the remains of two gold mines, operated between 1884 and 1889.

Above, on San Pedro Ridge, is a small grove of redwoods, which were logged off in the late 1800’s.

The area around the Civic Center was a dairy ranch. The site of Santa Venetia Market was formerly a turkey and chicken ranch.

Did you know Santa Venetia was a development that was originally supposed to have canals? Real estate developer Mabry McMahan envisioned a bayside luxury development modeled after Venice, Italy (hence the name “Santa Venetia”), complete with canals and gondolas. The economic decline following the First World War put an end to McMahan’s development.

The map on the right shows the original plans of the owner and developer Mabry McMahan. If you visit Santa Margarita island you can still see the remnants of his dream for a Little Venice in Marin.

Santa Venetia was a vacation spot for the wealthy for a brief period of time in the 1920s.

The area of the present Chalet Basque restaurant was a small private airport from 1920 until after World War II.

It was only after the Second World War that significant development took place in Santa Venetia, with suburban developments such as Gallinas Village being built on the land originally filled in 1914.

In the 1950s and 1960s, houses were built along North San Pedro Road west of Highway 101.By the mid-1970s the urban nature of Santa Venetia was much like the present day.

Santa Venetia: Italy it’s not, but you’ll find a continental touch or two
From Marin Magazine

SubUrban Legend – Gondoliers in Marin
From MoreMarin.com

Gallinas Watershed History
From the Marin County Watershed Program

Let us know if you have any pertinent historical information and we can post it here!


USGS Terra Linda

USGS Santa Venetia

Gallinas Watershed Land Use and Vegetation Maps
From the Marin County Watershed Program

Creeks in Gallinas Valley

The creek names in the Gallinas Valley watershed are confusing. In Gallinas marsh there is a large slough named Gallinas Creek. It extends inland as far as the lagoon below the Marin County Civic Center.
Upstream of that were several intermittent tributaries draining the Santa Margarita Valley. Miller Creek also runs in Gallinas Valley, and it has a separate mouth at the northern edge of Gallinas Marsh.

Gallinas Creek
can be divided into these sections:

Gallinas Creek North Fork
1.  Santa Margarita Creek and the very upper section of Gallinas Creek
2.  from the confluence of Santa Margarita creek to the Hwy 101 bridge
3.  from the 101 bridge to Contempo Marin/Captain’s Cove
4.  from Contempo Marin/Captain’s Cove to the confluence with the South Fork

Gallinas Creek South Fork
5.  Merrydale, Los Ranchitos, and Armory Creek Tributaries to Civic Center Drive or Civic Center Pond
6.  outfall of Civic Center Pond and East of Civic Center Dr. to confluence with the North Fork

Gallinas Creek Lower Portion
7. from the joining of the North & South forks to mouth of the creek at San Pablo Bay

Let us know if you have any pertinent geographical information and we can post it here!

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Judge Carlos Freitas:
“We all really learned how to swim in the creek at the home ranch which is now the creek in Terra Linda, which has been straightened out, but in those days [the early 1900’s] it meandered and had potholes, as it were. We would learn how to swim in those potholes. I remember coming to town here on horseback and bringing my lunch with me and going to the San Rafael Municipal Baths and swimming there all day long then riding horseback home, and that was a full day.”