Reserve Site Overview

The San Francisco Bay Estuary

The San Francisco Estuary is known as one of the most urbanized estuaries in the world. It is the heart of California’s economy and an estuary of international conservation significance. It is composed of two regions the upper-estuary and the lower-estuary. The upper estuary is more fresh-water flow-influenced and has two sub regions (Delta and Suisun). The lower estuary is dominated by salt-water tidal processes with three distinct sub regions (San Pablo Bay, Central Bay, and South Bay). The estuary as a whole is threatened and stressed by urbanization, invasive species, and rapid environmental change.

Our Reserve

The San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is located in the San Francisco Bay Estuary, it includes exemplary remnants of both the upper and lower estuarine landscapes and covers over 3,700 acres. China Camp and Rush Ranch, our two reserve sites, have been largely protected from development and alteration and are widely recognized for their expansive tidal marshes and undeveloped adjacent uplands. These sites have long been a focus of environmental and ecological research, providing important baseline data and serving as reference areas for the evaluation of restored, enhanced, or created wetlands around the estuary. 

China Camp Marsh

China Camp

The lower estuary component of our reserve is China Camp an area with tidal salt marshes surrounded by mudflats and hills.

Rush Ranch

Rush Ranch

Our upper estuary component is Rush Ranch, a tidal brackish marsh in an undeveloped grassland landscape that is part of a working ranch.



Estuary & Ocean Science Center at SF State

Our offices and laboratory are located at San Francisco State University’s marine research facility, the Estuary & Ocean Science Center (EOS), at the Romberg Tiburon Campus. EOS hosts an active group of marine and estuarine scientists, a graduate studies program, labs, vessels, vehicles, classrooms and office space.

Our Work

We are one of 29 National Estuarine Research Reserves established nationwide as field laboratories for scientific research and estuarine education. Our mission is to improve understanding and stewardship of the San Francisco Bay estuary. Learn more about our research, monitoring, education, stewardship and training programs in our What We Do section.

Management Plan

Learn more about our Reserve, China Camp and Rush Ranch in our management plan. This pdf document includes information about reserve history, science and social science, ecological characteristics, regional threats and stressors, geographic boundaries, and resource, usage and restoration plans.