Tiny Brooks Island Beckons with adventure
OAKLAND MAGAZINE May 2006
Next time you’re sitting in monster traffic at the Bay Bridge toll plaza, think about this. There’s an island in San Francisco Bay with just two human inhabitants. Accessible only by boat, it’s a windswept spit of land that just beckons to be explored – and it can be, with a guided tour through the East Bay Regional Parks.
I’ve been to Brooks Island by kayak, paddling across the sheltered waters of Richmond Harbor, and by motorboat. The motorboat was cheating, but I was in a hurry and grabbed a ride with the island’s caretakers. Kayaking is the way to go; it allows you to glide quietly across the water, much like the Native Americans who lived on Brooks centuries ago.
The park district owns the island today, but it wasn’t always that way. Its original inhabitants were Indians, who found an abundance of fish and game on the land. Their shell mounds and burial sites go back some 2500 years and are protected today. As the Europeans arrived, they saw another treasure on Brooks Island – rocks. A quarry was started and prisoners were ferried to Brooks to break up the stones and ship them back to help build San Quentin. The quarry remains evident today, as you stand on the rocky bluffs and look down to the pit below.
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