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USA Travel: A Visit to the US Army Corp of Engineer’s Bay-Delta Model in Sausalito, California, USA

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In this post, we visit the US Army Corp of Engineer’s Bay-Delta Model. This model is of the San Francisco Bay Area’s bay and delta water system located in Sausalito, California.

What is the Bay-Delta Model?

“Roughly the size of two football fields and holding 180,000 gallons of water, the Bay Model was built in 1957 to study the tidal currents of the San Francisco Bay Delta. Every 15 minutes, the model simulates a 24 hour cycle of tides in the Bay.”

The model was built and used at a time when computers did not have the same kinds of simulation capabilities available today.

The model played great importance in water management decisions. It served as a lab and a decision-making tool by planners and policy makers as to how to manage and preserve water throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

In 2000, the model transitioned into a visitor’s education center due to the advancement of computer technology.

Citation: San Francisco District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The self-guided tour begins with a short introduction about San Francisco Bay Area’s water history.

The 1849 California Gold Rush completely disrupted the delta. Gold was found in the tributaries to the San Joaquin, which flowed north to join the Sacramento in the great delta east of San Francisco Bay. Mining activities caused rock silt to wash down the bay, causing new sediments to fill in the bay. This endangered habitats for native flora and fauna. Today, two-thirds of the San Francisco Bay is 18 feet deep or less.

We learn about how preserving water as a key natural resource is vital to California state’s ability to thrive.

The Bay-Delta Model enabled decision makers to allocate resources and enables counties across the state to “coordinate and improve water supply reliability, protect water quality, manage flood protection, maintain public health standards, protect habitat and watershed resources, and enhance the overall health of the San Francisco Bay.”

Citation: The Bay Area Integrated Regional Water Management Plan

Following the museum, watch a s hort video about how the history of the San Francisco Bay Area’s water management programs have transformed over time. Continue on to the model.

When you first walk in, take in the enormity of the space. Though it’s just a model, you get a sense of how large the water systems are throughout Northern California.

In the South Bay of California, the water is on average only six feet deep. This makes the waterways prone to pollution from nearby highways and communities.

Once you finish the tour, go outside and get on the water.

The model is situated right next the water off the Richardson Bay, making it an idyllic place to start a tour of Sausalito and its surrounds.

If you plan ahead, you can book a kayaking or paddle boarding adventure following your visit to the Bay-Delta Model. The starting point is located next door.

Visitor information

Kayaking & stand up paddle board booking information

Map of Locations


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