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For the second Summer in a row, my wife and I visited China Camp State Park in San Rafael, California. In 2012, we stayed there for a couple of days, and we liked it so much that we returned this July.
Marin County, where China Camp is located, was home to the Miwok Indians in ancient times. They lived in thatched homes, and hunted and fished to meet their ongoing needs; some Miwok’s still live in the area today. European settlers arrived in the late 1500’s, and after the completion of the transcontinental railroad, and the gold rush, displaced Chinese workers started a fishing village there. A law was passed in 1882 which prevented Chinese laborers from coming to the United States, but some were able to stay on at the Village; and Frank Quan, one of the few remaining residents, still lives onsite, but the park seems to be in a fight to remain open due to budgetary strictures.
The State Park features a tiny fishing village museum that has some relics of that era, and offers a brief tour of the grounds, shrimping equipment, pier; and a replica of a Chinese fishing junk, The Grace Quan:
In addition, there are small beach areas, picnic areas, limited boating and fishing; Inland are more picnic areas, trails and a campground.
The campground has 30 sites, varying in size, with some right on the trail, and some slightly distant. The site we stayed at cost $35 per night, was not fancy, but included ample space to put up our tent, a barbecue area, and a picnic table with attached cabinet for keeping food away from critters overnight. The cabinet has a hasp for a locking (padlock not included). The sites are a few minutes’ walk from the parking lot, and the totes provided are a little awkward and dusty, but effective.
The grounds of the Park we visited were well maintained, but one of the trail areas had off-path areas that were almost completely untended, with the paths kept fully clear and safe, but the felled trees off the path left intact for environmental (and maybe financial) reasons; this was a little sad, but not a hindrance at all. The restrooms were kept very well throughout, which was much appreciated. Our neighbors were mostly families, with a few singles and young couples.
We visited and toured the museum last year, but this year we picnicked at a smaller beach area as the museum was temporarily closed due to a tree that had fallen nearby (which was to be handled the following week, I believe). The beach was a little cold this year (compared with our 2012 visit, but hey, this is the North Bay 😉 ) so we returned to our inland campsite, and enjoyed a very nice afternoon; and the temperature was fine.
Overall, I enjoyed our visit at least as much as the previous year. We would like to try other locales for camping as well, but spent a fun, weekends’ worth of time, two years running in a beautiful, quiet, serene, and fun environment. There is not a lot to do, but if you are looking for an inexpensive diversion in the North Bay for a day or two, it is very nice. Visiting China Camp also helps preserve a precious local resource.