Going to See the Bay Model



The Bay Model is a fully functional representation of San Francisco Bay.  Scientists in the 1940s and 1950s were looking for ways to understand the ecosystem around the bay.  Since computer technology was not near as advanced then as it is today, scientists had an alternate solution.  They built a to scale model of San Francisco Bay ranging from San Rafael to San Jose North to South and the Pacific Ocean out to the Central Valley west to east.  That’s all the water highlighted in red:


The Bay Model is 1.5 acres in size!  What’s even cooler?  The model’s tides are to scale.  The effect of tides are accelerated to cycle them much more frequently.  Scientists were trying to understand the effects of damming major portions of San Francisco Bay.  Fortunately, the model predicted disaster and they never went through with the plan.  Today, the model is free and open to the public for viewing.  I’ve been twice, and I have to say it’s fun to see where you live in relation to the area.

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Looking out over the Pacific Ocean, you don’t see China though.

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Even in the Bay model, San Francisco’s piers still have prime real estate.  Both of the bridges in and out of the city have reasonably good replicas.

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Bay Model 2


I’ve flown into San Francisco many times over the years in feel like I’m landing on the bay right before touchdown.  Seeing the model, it’s apparent how far the runway actually is out into the water.

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Most of San Francisco Bay is actually pretty shallow, except for the Golden Gate.  Most of the bay doesn’t get much deeper than 25 feet.  Right under the bridge the Bay gets significantly deeper to the order of 250 to 300 feet.

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Even The Rock has a prominent space in the model!

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One of the pumps malfunctioned so unfortunately the tides were running that day.  The pumps however did cause a rather large tsunami to hit the bay.  All of Foster City and Redwood Shores was underwater.

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Afterwards Larry and I poked around Sausalito as it was a warm spring day.  Doing portrait work is really hard as you got a find people to take photos of.  Larry was willing so was fun to take some photos out in the area.

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We took the Conzuelman Road exit to get a great view of the bridge.  As was warm spring days outside of San Francisco, it was cold and foggy as we headed into the city.  We had to wait a surprisingly long time to even see the bridge at all.

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Sweatshirts and hoodies were on in full force!

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In talking with the park rangers about the Bay Model, it’s clear this part of history is dying.  The amount of infrastructure it takes to keep the Bay Model running is pretty significant.  Large motors drive the tides in the day as well as a number of linkages that need to remain watertight.  While definitely nerdy, the Bay Model is the only one of its kind in the world.  If you do go see it, make sure to drop a five in the collection plate on your way out so that it remains for the generation behind us.-


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