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Marin County, California facts for kids

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County of Marin
Marin County Civic Center
Location in the state of California
Location in the state of California
California's location in the United States
California's location in the United States
Country  United States
State  California
Region San Francisco Bay Area
Incorporated February 18, 1850
County seat San Rafael
Largest city San Rafael (population and area)
 • Total 828 sq mi (2,140 km2)
 • Land 520 sq mi (1,300 km2)
 • Water 308 sq mi (800 km2)
Highest elevation
2,574 ft (785 m)
 • Total 252,409
 • Estimate 
 • Density 304.84/sq mi (117.70/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
Area codes 415, 707 (Tomales and Dillon Beach only)
FIPS code 06-041
GNIS feature ID 277285

Marin County is a county located in the San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 252,409. Its county seat is San Rafael. Marin County is included in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area (San Francisco Bay Area) across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.

Marin County is one of the wealthiest localities in the United States, known for its affluence. In May 2009, Marin County had the fifth highest income per capita in the United States at about $91,480. The county is governed by the Marin County Board of Supervisors. The county is also well known for its natural beauty and liberal politics.

San Quentin Prison is located in the county, as is George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch. Autodesk, the publisher of AutoCAD, is also located there, as well as numerous other high-tech companies. The Marin County Civic Center was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and draws thousands of visitors a year to guided tours of its arch and atrium design. In 1994, a new county jail facility was embedded into the hillside nearby. Marin County's natural sites include the Muir Woods redwood forest, the Marin Headlands, Stinson Beach, the Point Reyes National Seashore, and Mount Tamalpais.

The United States' oldest cross country running event, the Dipsea Race, takes place annually in Marin County, attracting thousands of athletes. Mountain biking was invented on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais in Marin.


Marin County is one of the original 27 counties of California, created February 18, 1850, following adoption of the California Constitution of 1849 and just months before the state was admitted to the Union.

According to General Mariano Vallejo, who headed an 1850 committee to name California's counties, the county was named for "Marin", great chief of the tribe Licatiut". Marin had been named Huicmuse until he was baptized as "Marino" at about age 20. Marin / Marino was born into the Huimen people, a Coast Miwok tribe of Native Americans who inhabited the San Rafael area. Vallejo believed that "Chief Marin" had waged several fierce battles against the Spanish. Marino definitely did reside at Mission Dolores (in modern San Francisco) much of the time from his 1801 baptism and marriage until 1817, frequently serving as a baptism witness and godfather; he may have escaped and been recaptured at some point during that time. Starting in 1817, he served as an alcalde (in effect, an overseer) at the San Rafael Mission, where he lived from 1817 off and on until his death. In 1821, Marino served as an expedition guide for the Spanish for a couple of years before escaping and hiding out for some months in the tiny Marin Islands (also named after him); his recapture resulted in a yearlong incarceration at the Presidio before his return to the Mission San Rafael area for about 15 years until his death in 1839.

Another version of the origin of the county name is that the bay between San Pedro Point and San Quentin Point was named Bahía de Nuestra Señora del Rosario la Marinera in 1775, and that Marin is simply an abbreviation of this name.

The Coast Miwok Indians were hunters and gatherers whose ancestors had occupied the area for thousands of years. About 600 village sites have been identified in the county. The Coast Miwok numbered in the thousands. Today, there are few left and even fewer with any knowledge of their Coast Miwok lineage. Efforts are being made so that they are not forgotten.

Francis Drake and the crew of the Golden Hind was thought to have landed on the Marin coast in 1579 claiming the land as Nova Albion. A bronze plaque inscribed with Drake's claim to the new lands, fitting the description in Drake's own account, was discovered in 1933. This so-called Drake's Plate of Brass was revealed as a hoax in 2003.

In 1595, Sebastian Cermeno lost his ship, the San Agustin, while exploring the Marin Coast. The Spanish explorer Vizcaíno landed about twenty years after Drake in what is now called Drakes Bay. However the first Spanish settlement in Marin was not established until 1817 when Mission San Rafael Arcángel was founded partly in response to the Russian-built Fort Ross to the north in what is now Sonoma County.

Mission San Rafael Arcángel was founded in what is now downtown San Rafael as the 20th Spanish mission in the colonial Mexican province of Alta California by four priests, Father Narciso Duran from Mission San Jose, Father Abella from Mission San Francisco de Asís, Father Gil y Taboada and Father Mariano Payeras, the President of the Missions, on December 14, 1817, four years before Mexico gained independence from Spain.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 828 square miles (2,140 km2), of which 520 square miles (1,300 km2) is land and 308 square miles (800 km2) (37.2%) is water. It is the fourth-smallest county in California by land area. According to the records at the County Assessor-Recorder's Office, as of June 2006, Marin had 91,065 acres (369 km2) of taxable land, consisting of 79,086 parcels with a total tax basis of $39.8 billion. These parcels are divided into the following classifications:

Parcel Type Tax ID Quantity Value
Vacant 10 6,900 $508.17 million
Single Family Residential 11 61,264 $30,137.02 million
Mobile Home 12 210 $7.62 million
House Boat 13 379 $61.83 million
Multi Family Residential 14 1,316 $3,973.51 million
Industrial Unimproved 40 113 $12.24 million
Industrial Improved 41 562 $482.83 million
Commercial Unimproved 50 431 $97.89 million
Commercial Improved 51 7,911 $4,519.64 million
The view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands
Stinson beach
Stinson Beach is one of the most popular beaches in West Marin

Geographically, the county forms a large, southward-facing peninsula, with the Pacific Ocean to the west, San Pablo Bay, and San Francisco Bay to the east, and – across the Golden Gate – the city of San Francisco to the south. Marin County's northern border is with Sonoma County.

Most of the county's population resides on the eastern side, with a string of communities running along San Francisco Bay, from Sausalito to Tiburon to Corte Madera to San Rafael. The interior contains large areas of agricultural and open space; West Marin, through which State Route 1 runs alongside the California coast, contains many small unincorporated communities whose economies depend on agriculture and tourism. West Marin has beaches which are popular destinations for surfers and tourists year-round.

Notable features of the shoreline along the San Francisco Bay include the Sausalito shoreline, Richardson Bay, the Tiburon Peninsula, Ring Mountain, and Triangle Marsh at Corte Madera. Further north lies San Quentin State Prison along the San Rafael shoreline.

National protected areas

State and local protected areas

The Marin County Department of Parks and Open Space manages numerous county parks and open spaces, including Stafford Lake County Park. The Marin Municipal Water District has 130 miles of trails.

State parks

Marine Protected Areas of Marin County

Like underwater parks, these marine-protected areas help conserve ocean wildlife and marine ecosystems:


Mount tamalpais from berkeley
Mount Tamalpais is the highest peak in the Marin Hills and can be seen here from Berkeley, California

Marin County is considered in the California Floristic Province, a zone of extremely high biodiversity and endemism. There are numerous ecosystems present, including Coastal Strand, oak woodland, mixed evergreen forest, and Coast Redwood Forests chaparral and riparian zones. There are also a considerable number of protected plant and animal species present: Fauna include the California Red-legged Frog (Rana aurora draytonii) and California freshwater shrimp while flora include Marin Dwarf Flax, Hesperolinon congestum; Tiburon Jewelflower, Streptanthus niger; and Tiburon Indian paintbrush, Castilleja neglecta.

Northern California Muir Woods - National Monument
Muir Woods National Monument, which is located on the Pacific coast of southwestern Marin County, California

A number of watersheds exist in Marin County, including Walker Creek, Lagunitas Creek, Miller Creek, and Novato Creek.

Notably, the Lagunitas Creek Watershed is home to the largest-remaining wild run of Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) in Central California. These coho are part of the "Central California Coast Evolutionarily Significant Unit," or CCC ESU, and are listed as "endangered" at both the state and federal level.

Significant efforts to protect and restore these fish have been underway in the Watershed since the 1980s. Fifty-percent of historical salmon habitat is now behind dams. Strong efforts are also being made to protect and restore undammed, headwater reaches of this Watershed in the San Geronimo Valley, where upwards of 40% of the Lagunitas salmon spawn each year and where as much as 1/3 of the juvenile salmon (or fry) spend their entire freshwater lives. The "Salmon Protection and Watershed Network" leads winter tours for the public to learn about and view these spawning salmon, and also leads year-round opportunities for the public to get involved in stream restoration, monitoring spawning and smolt outmigration, juvenile fish rescue and relocation in the summer, and advocacy and policy development. Around 490 different species of birds have been observed in Marin County.

Despite the lack of rain in the Marin County area due to historic drought levels, in 2014, an estimated 20,000 juvenile Coho salmon made the migration from their spawning grounds in the Lagunitas Creek area to the Pacific Ocean. This increase in migration was significantly up from the previous historic record for the same migration measured in 2006 at 11,000.

In 2010, all of the county's beaches were listed as the cleanest in the state.



Places by population, race, and income


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 323
1860 3,334 932.2%
1870 6,903 107.0%
1880 11,324 64.0%
1890 13,072 15.4%
1900 15,702 20.1%
1910 25,114 59.9%
1920 27,342 8.9%
1930 41,648 52.3%
1940 52,907 27.0%
1950 85,619 61.8%
1960 146,820 71.5%
1970 206,038 40.3%
1980 222,568 8.0%
1990 230,096 3.4%
2000 247,289 7.5%
2010 252,409 2.1%
Est. 2015 261,221 3.5%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2015

The 2010 United States Census reported that Marin County had a population of 252,409. The racial makeup of Marin County was 201,963 (80.0%) White, 6,987 (2.8%) African American, 1,523 (0.6%) Native American, 13,761 (5.5%) Asian, 509 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 16,973 (6.7%) from other races, and 10,693 (4.2%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 39,069 persons (15.5%).

Demographic profile 2010 2000 1990 1980
White 80.0% 84.0% 88.9% 92.8%
Asian 5.5% 4.5% 4.0% 3.0%
Black or African American 2.8% 2.9% 3.5% 2.5%
American Indian and Alaska Native 0.6% 0.4% 0.4% 0.4%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 0.2% 0.2%
Some other race 6.7% 4.5%
Two or more races 4.2% 3.5%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 15.5% 11.1% 7.4% 4.2%
White alone 72.8% 78.6% 84.6% 89.8%


As of the census of 2000, there were 247,289 people, 100,650 households, and 60,691 families residing in the county. The population density was 476 people per square mile (184/km²). There were 104,990 housing units at an average density of 202 per square mile (78/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 84.0% White, 2.9% Black or African American, 0.4% Native American, 4.5% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 4.5% from other races, and 3.5% from two or more races. 11.1% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

In 2000, there were 100,650 households out of which 27.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.4% were married couples living together, 8.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.7% were non-families. 29.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.90.

In the county, the population was spread out with 20.3% under the age of 18, 5.5% from 18 to 24, 31.0% from 25 to 44, 29.7% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 98.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.4 males.

Life expectancy

According to the most recent data on U.S. life expectancy, published in 2010 by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a female in Marin County could expect to live 85.0 years, the longest for any county in the United States. The national average is 80.8 years for a female.

Race and ethnicity

According to the 2010 United States Census, the racial composition of Marin County was as follows:


Place of birth

According to the 2006–2008 American Community Survey, 81.3% of Marin County's residents were native to the United States. Approximately 80.0% of the county's residents were born in one of the fifty states or born abroad to American parents.

Foreign-born individuals made up the remaining 18.7% of the population. Latin America was the most common birthplace of foreign-born residents; those born in Latin America made up the plurality (42.2%) of Marin County's foreign population. Individuals born in Europe were the second largest foreign-born group; they made up 25.3% of Marin County's foreign population. Immigrants from Asia made up 23.7% of the county's foreign population. Those born in other parts of North America and Africa made up 3.9% and 3.8% of the foreign-born populace respectively. Lastly, residents born in Oceania made up a mere 1.2% of Marin County's foreign population.



According to the 2006–2008 American Community Survey, English was the most commonly spoken language at home by residents over five years of age; those who spoke only English at home made up 77.1% of Marin County's residents. Speakers of non-English languages accounted for the remaining 22.9% of the population. Speakers of Spanish made up 11.7% of the county's residents, while speakers of other Indo-European languages made up 7.1% of the populace. Speakers of Asian languages and indigenous languages of the Pacific islands made up 3.4% of the population. The remaining 0.7% spoke other languages. Source:


According to the 2006–2008 American Community Survey, there were 16 ancestries in Marin County that made up over 1.0% of its population. The 16 ancestries are listed below:



The median income for a household in the county was $71,306 and the median income for a family was $88,934. As of 2007, these figures had risen to $83,732 and $104,750.

In May 2010, the county had the lowest unemployment rate in California. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in July 2010, Marin's unemployment rate rose to 8.3%.


Bicentennial in San Francisco
Bicentennial Campground within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area surrounding the San Francisco Bay area

Major highways

Scenic roads

  • Conzelman Road, Marin Headlands
  • Dillon Beach Road
  • Bear Valley Road: connects Olema to Inverness Park
  • Limantour Road: travels across central Point Reyes
  • Crown Road
  • Tomales Petaluma Road
  • Chileno Valley Road: Connects Marshall Petaluma Road to Tomales Petaluma Road
  • Marshall Petaluma Road
  • Hicks Valley Road: Connects Marshall Petaluma Road to Point Reyes Petaluma Road
  • Point Reyes Petaluma Road
  • Novato Boulevard: Novato to Point Reyes Petaluma Road
  • Sir Francis Drake Blvd: Point Reyes Lighthouse to San Quentin
  • Panoramic Highway
  • Bolinas Fairfax Road: Connects Sir Francis Drake Blvd to State Route 1 (also a scenic road) at Bolinas
  • Bolinas Ridge Road: Connects Bolinas Fairfax Road to Panoramic Highway and Muir Woods Road
  • Lucas Valley Road and Nicasio Valley Road: Connect 101 with Point Reyes Petaluma Road
  • Point / North San Pedro Road: Connects Santa Venetia and Peacock Gap neighborhoods via China Camp State Park
  • Bridgeway Blvd, Sausalito
  • Ridgecrest Blvd: transverses the top of Mount Tamalpais
  • Pierce Point Road: travels across Northern Point Reyes
  • Paradise Drive: Tiburon to Corte Madera
  • Camino Alto / Magnolia Avenue: connects Larkspur to Mill Valley

Public transportation

San Rafael Transit Center 2
San Rafael Transit Center, a hub for Marin Transit buses

Golden Gate Transit provides service primarily along the U.S. 101 corridor, serving cities in Marin County, as well as San Francisco and Sonoma County. Service is also provided to Contra Costa County via the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Ferries to San Francisco operate from Larkspur and Sausalito. Ferry service from Tiburon is provided by Blue and Gold Fleet and by the Angel Island Ferry.

Local bus routes within Marin County are operated by Golden Gate Transit under contract with Marin Transit. Marin Transit also operates the West Marin Stage, serving communities in the western, rural areas of Marin County, the Muir Woods Shuttle, and 6 community shuttle routes.

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system, scheduled to begin service in the spring of 2017, is a passenger rail service and bicycle-pedestrian pathway serving Sonoma and Marin counties. Phase I will provide service from Sonoma County airport to the San Rafael Transit Center. Later phases will extend service to Cloverdale in the north and to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal in the south.

The Marin Airporter offers scheduled bus service to and from Marin County and the San Francisco Airport.

Greyhound Lines buses service San Rafael.


Marin County Airport or Gnoss Field (ICAO: KDVO) is a general aviation airport operated by the County Department of Public Works. The nearest airports with commercial flights are San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport, as well as Charles M. Schulz - Sonoma County Airport north of Marin County.


  • Marin Museum of the American Indian
  • Marin Museum of Contemporary Art



Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Population ranking

The population ranking of the following table is based on the 2010 census of Marin County.

county seat

Rank City/Town/etc. Municipal type Population (2010 Census)
1 San Rafael City 57,713
2 Novato City 51,904
3 Mill Valley City 13,903
4 San Anselmo Town 12,336
5 Larkspur City 11,926
6 Tamalpais-Homestead Valley CDP 10,735
7 Corte Madera Town 9,253
8 Tiburon Town 8,962
9 Fairfax Town 7,441
10 Sausalito City 7,061
11 Kentfield CDP 6,485
12 Lucas Valley-Marinwood CDP 6,094
13 Strawberry CDP 5,393
14 Santa Venetia CDP 4,292
15 Marin City CDP 2,666
16 Ross Town 2,415
17 Sleepy Hollow CDP 2,384
18 Belvedere City 2,068
19 Lagunitas-Forest Knolls CDP 1,819
20 Bolinas CDP 1,620
21 Woodacre CDP 1,348
22 Black Point-Green Point CDP 1,306
23 Inverness CDP 1,304
24 Point Reyes Station CDP 848
25 Alto CDP 711
26 Stinson Beach CDP 632
27 San Geronimo CDP 446
28 Muir Beach CDP 310
29 Dillon Beach CDP 283
30 Tomales CDP 204
31 Nicasio CDP 96

In popular culture

Marin County has been used as the venue for numerous films and books; in some cases, these works have also incorporated scenes set in neighboring San Francisco or Sonoma County. The following are representative works produced in whole or in part in Marin County:

  • Marin County lifestyles of the 1970s were spoofed in The Serial: A Year in the Life of Marin County by Cyra McFadden and in Serial, which was based on the novel.
  • The Body Snatchers was set in Mill Valley.
  • Key scenes in the 1973 movie American Graffiti were filmed in Marin at Tamalpais High School and on 4th Street in downtown San Rafael.
  • Scenes from The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II were filmed in Marin.
  • Marin County's reputation as a counterculture enclave, especially the town of Bolinas and its isolationist reputation, made it a location of many key events in Ecotopia Emerging by Ernest Callenbach.
  • Many scenes of the Dirty Harry franchise were filmed in Marin.
  • Village of the Damned was filmed entirely in Marin.
  • Jack was filmed almost entirely in Ross.
  • Bandits was filmed in Marin.
  • Gattaca was filmed at the Marin County Civic Center.
  • Scenes from THX 1138 were filmed at the Marin County Civic Center.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the college scenes were filmed at Dominican University of California; additionally, home exteriors were filmed in San Rafael.
  • In Youth in Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp, the Twisp family resides in Oakland and Nick's father is in jail in Marin County.
  • A Time For Dancing was set in Mill Valley and the characters attended Tamalpais High School.
  • Scenes in Basic Instinct were filmed in Marin, particularly the car chase scene when Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) follows Catherine Trammell (Sharon Stone) from Mill Valley to Muir Beach on Highway 1.
  • In Foul Play, Tony Carlson (Chevy Chase) lives on a houseboat in Sausalito.
  • Short scenes in Nine Months were set in Tiburon, along with a view of San Francisco.
  • Short scenes in Zodiac were filmed in and around Marin County. It should be noted that the stabbing scene at the lake was not filmed in Novato, but at Lake Berryessa.
  • The staging of George Grisby's shooting in The Lady From Shanghai was shot on the dock outside what is now the Gaylord Indian Restaurant in Sausalito.
  • In M*A*S*H, B.J. Hunnicut (Mike Farrell) was from Mill Valley in Marin County.
  • Much of Radio Flyer was filmed in Novato (other portions were filmed in Sonora, California).
  • The Moneytree was set in Marin County.
  • Segments from Funny People were filmed in Marin County.
  • Several scenes in Mother were shot in Kentfield, Larkspur, Sausalito, and other areas of Marin.
  • Some scenes in Return of the Jedi were filmed in Marin County.
  • In Terminator Salvation, Skynet's California headquarters is presumably located in Marin County.
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Kirk and Spock find their humpbacked whales in the "Cetacean Institute" supposedly situated in Sausalito. Star Trek: The Next Generation places Starfleet Academy in what is now Fort Baker, immediately south of Sausalito.
  • Half of Blood In Blood Out was filmed inside California's San Quentin State Prison.
  • Both in the novel and 1998 film, Stella in How Stella Got Her Groove Back was from Marin County.
  • Mount Tamalpais in the Marin Hills serves as the home of the Greek Titans in Percy Jackson & the Olympians.
  • In The Ted Knight Show, Henry and Muriel Rush and Monroe Ficus move from San Francisco to Marin County.
  • Touching Home is directed by Noah and Logan Miller, twin brothers from Marin County.
  • Parts of The Years of Rice and Salt take place in an alternate Marin County colonized by Ming-dynasty China.
  • Parts of Tupac: Resurrection were filmed in Marin City.
  • Parts of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes take place in Marin County and Muir Woods.

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