Mill Valley is a city in Marin County, California, United States, located about 14 miles (23 km) north of San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge. The population was 13,903 at the 2010 census.
Mill Valley is located on the western and northern shores of Richardson Bay, and the eastern slopes of Mount Tamalpais. Beyond the flat coastal area and marshlands, it occupies narrow wooded canyons, mostly of second-growth redwoods, on the southeastern slopes of Mount Tamalpais. The Mill Valley 94941 ZIP code also includes the following adjacent unincorporated communities: Almonte, Alto, Homestead Valley, Tamalpais Valley, and Strawberry. The Muir Woods National Monument is also located just outside the city limits.
The first people known to inhabit Marin County, the Coast Miwok, arrived approximately 6,000 years ago. The territory of the Coast Miwok included all of Marin County, north to Bodega Bay and southern Sonoma County. More than 600 village sites have been identified,including 14 sites in the Mill Valley area. Nearby archaeological discoveries include the rock carvings and grinding sites on Ring Mountain. The pre-Missionization population of the Coast Miwok is estimated to be between 1,500 (Alfred L. Kroeber’s estimate for the year 1770 A.D.) to 2,000 (Sherburne F. Cook’s estimate for the same year). The pre-Missionization population of the Coast Miwok may have been as high as 5000. Cook speculated that by 1848 their population had decreased to 300, and down to 60 by 1880. As of 2011 there are over 1,000 registered members of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria which includes both the Coast Miwok and the Southern Pomo, all of whom can date their ancestry back to the 14 survivors original tribal ancestors.
In Mill Valley, on Locust Avenue between Sycamore and Walnut Avenues, there is now a metal plaque set in the sidewalk in the area believed to be the birthplace of Chief Marin in 1871; the plaque was dedicated on 8 May 2009. The village site was first identified by Nels Nelson in 1907 and his excavation revealed tools, burials and food debris just beyond the driveway of 44 Locust Ave. At that time, the mound was 20 feet (6.1 m) high. Another famous Mill Valley site was in the Manzanita area underneath the Fireside Inn (previously known as the Manzanita Roadhouse, Manzanita Hotel, Emil Plasberg’s Top Rail, and Top Rail Tavern, most of which were notorious Prohibition-era gin joints and brothels) located near the intersection of U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1. Built in 1916, the “blind pig” roadhouse was outside the dry limits of the city itself. Shell mounds have been discovered in areas by streams and along Richardson Bay, including in the Strawberry and Almonte neighborhoods.
Beginning with the foundation of Mission San Francisco de Asís, commonly known as Mission Dolores, in 1776, the Coast Miwok of southern Marin began to slowly enter the mission, first those from Sausalito followed by those from areas we now know as Mill Valley, Belvedere, Tiburon and Bolinas. They called themselves the “Huimen” people. At the mission they were taught the Catholic religion, lost their freedom, and three quarters died as a result of exposure to European diseases. As a result of the high death rate at Mission Dolores it was decided to build a new Mission San Rafael, built in 1817. Over 200 surviving Coast Miwok were taken there from Mission Dolores and Mission San Jose,including the 17 survivors of the Huimen Coast Miwok of the Richardson Bay Area. California Missions.
According to the United States Census Bureau the city has a total area of 4.8 square miles (12 km2), of which 4.7 square miles (12 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) of (1.74%) water.
The Mill Valley 94941 area lies between Mt. Tamalpais on the west, the city of Tiburon on the east,the City of Corte Madera on the north, and the Golden Gate National Recreational Area (GGNRA) on the south. Two streams flow from the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais through Mill Valley to the bay: the Arroyo Corte Madera del Presidio; and Cascade Creek. Mill Valley is surrounded by hundreds of acres (hectares) of state, federal, and county park lands. In addition, there are many municipally maintained open-space reserves, parks, and coastal habitats which, when taken together, ensconce Mill Valley in a natural wilderness. This close and constant proximity to nature has left generations of Mill Valley residents with a strong sense of conservancy toward much of this natural environment. This unique cultural attitude, along with the many natural public spaces preserved within (see below) and around its borders, combine to form one of the main cultural cornerstones that has always defined Mill Valley.
Mill Valley has a number of scenic and natural features which provides significant habitat for fishes, marine mammals, and other biota. Notable areas of public access to experience these aquatic preserves can be found at:
- Bayfront Park and Bothin Marsh Open Space Preserve
- Elizabeth Terwilliger Marsh
Mill Valley and the Homestead Valley Land Trust maintains many minimally disturbed wildland areas and preserves which are open to the public from sunrise to dusk everyday. Several nature trails allow access as well as providing gateway access to neighboring state and federal park lands, and the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed wildland on the broad eastern face of Mt. Tamalpais that overlooks Mill Valley. These are undeveloped natural areas and contain many species of wild animals, including some large predators like the coyote, the bobcat, and the cougar. As in all wildland areas, observe daytime access hours, keep dogs on leashes, and keep younger children from wandering about unattended. One may also want to familiarize themselves with how to live and recreate among cougars, coyotes, and bobcats prior to visiting these wildland areas.