See Michael Hanrahan’s 2012 Visitor’s Guide for a great introduction to the park.
Drop by our Visitor Center / Ranger Station to get information and say hello.
Planning a group visit? Please notify the Park if you are a group larger than 15; we can help you know where to park, how to have the least impact on our trails and have the best group experience. If you would like to arrange a group tour Click Here to download a request form.
Be Safe! Click here for China Camp State Park Safety Regulations
Dogs Rule! But we do have Dog Rules: Click Here
Drones Don’t! Because of the sensitive habitat, state law prohibits drones anywhere in the park, and fines are steep, so keep ’em in the car.
Don’t Get Ticked Off! Click Here for information about ticks and Lyme disease
China Camp State Park’s Beach Report Card
Turtle Back Hill
Turtle Back Hill is a small peninsula that is actually more like an island, a unique ecological island that is almost entirely surrounded by the salt marshes along San Pablo Bay. Turtle Back Hill features a microcosm of the ecology of China Camp State Park. All four types of oak trees that can be found in the park are on Turtle Back Hill: coast live oaks, valley oaks, California black oaks, and blue oaks. Interspersed with the oak woodlands are grasslands that have a mixture of both native and non-native species. On the northwest side of the hill is a beautiful field of purple needlegrass (Nassella pulchra), the official state grass of California. And surrounding the hill are the vast salt marshes that so typify the shoreline of San Pablo Bay.
Just offshore from Turtle Back Hill is Jake’s Island, a small hill that rises up from the landscape, completely surrounded by the salt marshes. Jake’s Island is forested with a dense oak woodland and provides an isolated and highly sensitive environment for wildlife. The island is not accessible to visitors because of its sensitive ecology and because getting to it would require traversing the even more sensitive salt marshes. Jake’s Island can be viewed from afar though, especially from signpost number two on the Turtle Back Hill Nature Trail. The island gets its name from a man who set up a small homestead there in years past.
The Turtle Back Hill Nature Trail is an easy signposted trail with interpretive signs that tell the story of the salt marshes and the bay environment. This trail is fully accessible and meets the criteria for wheelchair access under the American with Disabilities Act. It also has tactile features for the visually impaired. Part of the trail is along a wooden boardwalk, taking hikers over the edge of the salt marshes for a close-up view.
Hikers can listen to an Interpretive Audio Tour while taking this hike. The tour has been created by the California Department of Parks & Recreation and features a series of MP3 files that can be downloaded and played on an IPod or other MP3 player.
Located along the shores of San Pablo Bay, China Camp Village was the site of a Chinese shrimp fishing camp that dates back to around 1870. It was one of dozens of shrimping camps around the shores of the Bay that thrived from the 1870s until the early part of the 20th century. At its heyday in the 1880s, there were more than 500 people living at China Camp Village, with several small streets lined with wooden buildings. The residents of the village made their living harvesting the shrimp from the tidal mud flats along San Pablo Bay. Some of the shrimp was sold to local restaurants, but the vast majority was dried and prepared for export to China.
China Camp Village began to decline in 1882, when Chinese immigration to the United States was banned by the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act. This was the first time in U.S. history that immigration was banned for an entire nationality. Additional discriminatory laws were passed against the Chinese, making life difficult for the fishermen of China Camp Village. In 1905 the export of shrimp was outlawed, striking a severe blow to the China Camp economy. In 1911, the use of the traditional bag nets favored by the Chinese was prohibited. As a result of these laws, the population of China Camp Village declined until almost all residents were gone.
A number of historic structures remain along the waterfront, including a small museum with exhibits and interpretive displays about the history of the village and the shrimp fishing industry. The general store is operated by Frank Quan, the grandson of Quan Hung Quock, who came to China Camp Village in 1895. Also still standing are a shrimp drying platform and shed, a shrimp grinding shed, a number of residences, and a 300-foot pier jutting out into the Bay. The China Camp Village Museum is located in one of the old historic buildings and is open on weekends and other days when volunteer docents are available to staff it. A small beach runs in front of the village, with several picnic areas available.
The Grace Quan
The Grace Quan is a 43-foot replica Chinese junk, the traditional type of sailing ship used by fishermen in the Pearl River Delta of southern China. It was built in 2003 by John Muir, a boat builder for the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, along with a team of National Park Service volunteers and staff. The design was based on historic photographs of Chinese junks, as well as archaeological evidence from two junks that were discovered buried in the mud at Rat Rock Cove in 1977. Traditional Chinese boat building techniques, such as using fire to make the wooden planks flexible, were used as much as possible in order to create a historically accurate replica of a Chinese junk.
The boat is designed in the classic style of a southern Chinese junk, although many of the materials used are more native to California. The boat itself is built of redwood, a sturdy, long-lasting, and reliable wood. The mast is from an 80-foot Douglas-fir found in Napa County. The reddish brown rust-colored hue of the sails comes from a traditional sailing practice of using the crushed dried bark of tanbark oak to treat cotton canvas sails, in order to preserve them in the harsh elements of the sea.
Chinese junks were used extensively by shrimp fishermen around the shores of San Francisco and San Pablo Bays in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some of the junks were large 60-foot, two-masted vessels, but the majority of them were single-masted junks that boat builder John Muir describes as “… the workhorses of the Chinese shrimp fisheries during the period of its flourish, and up until its demise in 1911.”
The Grace Quan was named after the mother of Frank Quan, who is the last remaining resident of China Camp Village. Most of the year it is docked at the Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco, along with other historic vessels in the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park. The Grace Quan sails to China Camp Village in the summertime, where it is docked at the pier. It is on display during the annual Heritage Day celebration.