The history of Angel Island spans centuries.

3000 years ago

Before Westerners arrived, the Miwok enjoyed thousands of peaceful years of pristine beauty on Angel Island. Native American use of the island began when people first came to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Coast Miwok Indians, who lived in what is now Marin County, reached the island with boats made from tule reeds. Some of these boats could carry eight to ten people. Though they tended to become waterlogged after prolonged use, these boats were adequate for short trips because their lightness made them fast and maneuverable. Long poles were used to propel the boats in shallow water; double ended paddles were used in deep water.

Miwok Indians established camps at what we know today as Ayala Cove, Camp Reynolds, Fort McDowell, and the Immigration Station. The Indians using the island were experts at fishing. They also hunted deer, seals, sea lions, and sea otter. Several kinds of fish and shellfish were available year-round, and salmon and other highly prized fish were seasonally plentiful. The annual spawning runs were made though Raccoon Strait, just offshore from Angel Island. The Indians also hunted duck and other sea fowl, and gathered acorns, buckeyes, and other seed crops, as well as certain roots and leaves, in order to round out their varied diet.


Portola’s expedition first sights San Francisco Bay.


The Battle of Lexington begins the American Revolution.
Lt. Juan Manual de Ayala of the Royal Spanish Navy sails into the bay on the San Carlos, the first European ship to enter. He anchors in the cove that now bears his name, and spends over a month charting the bay.


A Russian otter-hunting party is seen near Angel Island.


A 16-gun British sloop, the HMS Racoon, is repaired in what is now Ayala Cove, giving her name to Rac(c)oon Strait.


Mexico gains her independence from Spain.


Richard Henry Dana, a sailor on the Alert, visits Angel Island, in a search for wood for the ship. He described this visit in his classic Two Years Before The Mast. The island is used by ships as a source of wood and water; it is often known as “Wood Island”.

Our Community. Our Island. Our Legacy.

Angel Island Conservancy // PO Box 866 / Tiburon / CA 94920 // 415.435.3972// info@angelisland.org // FACEBOOK // FLICKR // INSTAGRAM