Marin County is a county located in the San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 252,409. Its county seat is San Rafael.
Marin County is included in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area (San Francisco Bay Area) across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.
Marin County is well known for its natural beauty, liberal politics, and affluence. In May 2009, Marin County had the fifth highest income per capita in the United States at about $91,480. The county is governed by the Marin County Board of Supervisors.
San Quentin Prison is located in the county, as is George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch. Autodesk, the publisher of AutoCAD, is also located there, as well as numerous other high-tech companies.
The Marin County Civic Center was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and draws thousands of visitors a year to guided tours of its arch and atrium design. In 1994, a new county jail facility was embedded into the hillside nearby. Marin County’s natural sites include the Muir Woods redwood forest, the Marin Headlands, Stinson Beach, the Point Reyes National Seashore, and Mount Tamalpais.
The United States’ oldest cross country running event, the Dipsea Race, takes place annually in Marin County, attracting thousands of athletes. Mountain biking was invented on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais in Marin.
Marin County is one of the original 27 counties of California, created February 18, 1850, following adoption of the California Constitution of 1849 and just months before the state was admitted to the Union.
According to General Mariano Vallejo, who headed an 1850 committee to name California’s counties, the county was named for “Marin”, great chief of the tribe Licatiut”. Marin had been named Huicmuse until he was baptized as “Marino” at about age 20. Marin / Marino was born into the Huimen people, a Coast Miwok tribe of Native Americans who inhabited the San Rafael area. Vallejo believed that “Chief Marin” had waged several fierce battles against the Spanish. Marino definitely did reside at Mission Dolores (in modern San Francisco) much of the time from his 1801 baptism and marriage until 1817, frequently serving as a baptism witness and godfather; he may have escaped and been recaptured at some point during that time. Starting in 1817, he served as an alcalde (in effect, an overseer) at the San Rafael Mission, where he lived from 1817 off and on until his death. In 1821, Marino served as an expedition guide for the Spanish for a couple of years before escaping and hiding out for some months in the tiny Marin Islands (also named after him); his recapture resulted in a yearlong incarceration at the Presidio before his return to the Mission San Rafael area for about 15 years until his death in 1839.
Another version of the origin of the county name is that the bay between San Pedro Point and San Quentin Point was named Bahía de Nuestra Señora del Rosario la Marinera in 1775, and that Marin is simply an abbreviation of this name.
The Coast Miwok Indians were hunters and gatherers whose ancestors had occupied the area for thousands of years. About 600 village sites have been identified in the county. The Coast Miwok numbered in the thousands. Today, there are few left and even fewer with any knowledge of their Coast Miwok lineage. Efforts are being made so that they are not forgotten.
Francis Drake and the crew of the Golden Hind was thought to have landed on the Marin coast in 1579 claiming the land as Nova Albion. A bronze plaque inscribed with Drake’s claim to the new lands, fitting the description in Drake’s own account, was discovered in 1933. This so-called Drake’s Plate of Brass was revealed as a hoax in 2003.
In 1595, Sebastian Cermeno lost his ship, the San Agustin, while exploring the Marin Coast. The Spanish explorer Vizcaíno landed about twenty years after Drake in what is now called Drakes Bay. However the first Spanish settlement in Marin was not established until 1817 when Mission San Rafael Arcángel was founded partly in response to the Russian-built Fort Ross to the north in what is now Sonoma County.
Mission San Rafael Arcángel was founded in what is now downtown San Rafael as the 20th Spanish mission in the colonial Mexican province of Alta California by four priests, Father Narciso Duran from Mission San Jose, Father Abella from Mission San Francisco de Asís, Father Gil y Taboada and Father Mariano Payeras, the President of the Missions, on December 14, 1817, four years before Mexico gained independence from Spain.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 828 square miles (2,140 km2), of which 520 square miles (1,300 km2) is land and 308 square miles (800 km2) (37.2%) is water. It is the fourth-smallest county in California by land area. According to the records at the County Assessor-Recorder’s Office, as of June 2006, Marin had 91,065 acres (369 km2) of taxable land, consisting of 79,086 parcels with a total tax basis of $39.8 billion. These parcels are divided into the following classifications.
Geographically, the county forms a large, southward-facing peninsula, with the Pacific Ocean to the west, San Pablo Bay, and San Francisco Bay to the east, and – across the Golden Gate – the city of San Francisco to the south. Marin County’s northern border is with Sonoma County.
Most of the county’s population resides on the eastern side, with a string of communities running along San Francisco Bay, from Sausalito to Tiburon to Corte Madera to San Rafael. The interior contains large areas of agricultural and open space; West Marin, through which State Route 1 runs alongside the California coast, contains many small unincorporated communities whose economies depend on agriculture and tourism. West Marin has beaches which are popular destinations for surfers and tourists year-round.
Notable features of the shoreline along the San Francisco Bay include the Sausalito shoreline, Richardson Bay, the Tiburon Peninsula, Ring Mountain, and Triangle Marsh at Corte Madera. Further north lies San Quentin State Prison along the San Rafael shoreline.