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Cover Story

Checkin’ Out the Oakland / Alameda Estuary

By Nancy Salcedo




There’s a lot to the Oakland estuary-culturally rich with ethnic neighborhoods, resident artists and a colorful history-and gainfully employed as a major port moving goods throughout the world economy. The estuary is sandwiched between Oakland and Alameda, with great places along both waterfronts. You never get the feeling that you’re being processed as a tourist. In fact, it seems funny that there is so little hype about visiting the estuary. Though the net affect is incredibly refreshing, I wonder why so many Bay Area people know so little of this waterfront scene.

With most of what you see along the Oakland waterfront falling under the jurisdiction of the Port of Oakland, the estuary is developed very carefully. Port commissioners exercise ownership rights over 19 miles of waterfront, including everything from Jack London Square to the Oakland International Airport. The ferry drops you near the Waterfront Plaza Hotel at Jack London Square. You can stay here, or at the Jack London Inn. From here you can use BART or Alameda County Transit, leisurely strolls, and flat-land bike rides to check out Oakland’s rich cultural scene: murals, great music and museums, and restaurants featuring cuisine from most points on the globe. Don’t forget your bike because there are no rentals in Jack London Square. Rent a kayak, or take the Jack London Square Water Taxi (5$ for anywhere you want to go) to check out the waterfront.

Oakland is one of the oldest cities in the Bay Area, and it has a colorful past. Like many other Bay Area towns, it sprang up during the gold rush, when clipper ships carried passengers (including Oakland’s first mayor Horace Carpentier) around Cape Horn, and

Carpentier’s and Central Pacific’s ferry The Oakland 1875.

steamboats traveled the delta rivers to the gold country via Stockton and Sacramento. Unlike other cities, Oakland was quick to incorporate and build bridges, ferries, wharves, and piers. Carpentier, who had manipulated the formation of the town in 1852, received upon incorporation Oakland’s waterfront and its ferry franchise. Ferries called at wharves at the foot of Broadway, Webster and Washington Streets and at the Embarcadero de San Antonio (now Embarcadero Cove) which served the town of Brooklyn, shipping timber felled from the forests of the Oakland Hills. Carpentier became Oakland’s first mayor and ran the Oakland waterfront for years. Oakland and Alameda had railroads by 1864, each with deep-water piers in the bay and frequent ferry crossings to San Francisco. Transcontinental rail service came in 1869, all of which was later absorbed by Central Pacific in partnership with Carpentier, who quickly built the Oakland Long Wharf, a freight and ferry pier extending 2 miles into the Bay with train tracks and berths for deep water vessels.

With its railways and ferries, Oakland became one of California’s largest cities. Bridges linked Oakland with Alameda and both cities grew as commuter suburbs of San Francisco. The ferries carried millions of passengers annually. In the 1880s, California was the center of the nations whaling industry. The estuary became a famous winter mooring for whaling fleets, and later their graveyard. Alaska Packer’s Association, the world’s largest salmon packer, brought a mooring and maintenance facility to the Alameda waterfront at the turn of the century, and with it the seasonal rhythm of the salmon

The Estuary lined with lumberyards.

fishery- the fleet heading north in mass in the spring and returning late summer full of salmon. The Alameda waterfront became a center for shipbuilders turning out wooden vessels from river steamers to deep water barksensteims and schooners. Lumberyards and large storage facilities went up on the estuary-all operating on land leased from Carpentier and Central Pacific’s Oakland Waterfront Company These vintage waterfront facilities were connected by rail, Most of the freight went through the Oakland Long Wharf, where it was moved by longshoremen between freight cars and deep water vessels or trans-bay freight ferries.


Oakland / Alameda Estuary Directory


Alameda Oakland Ferry-(510)522-3300,



Alameda County Transit-(510)817-1717,

Jack London Water Taxi -Foot of Broadway at water’s edge-(510)839-7572

Broadway Shopper Shuttle-(510)238-6246

What to do at night

Yoshi’s-510 Embarcadero West-(510)238-9200,

Alice Arts Center-1428 Alice Street-(510)238-7219

Oakland Ballet-(510)893-2300,

Oakland East bay Symphony-(510)444-0801,

Paramount Theater-2025 Broadway-(510)465-6400,

49er ferry service Harbor Bay Ferry Alameda (510)769-5500,

Giants’ ferry service Alameda Oakland Ferry-(510)522-3300,

Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Complex-(510)569-2121

Jack London Cinema-Jack London Square-(510)433-1320


Potomac Visitor Center-540 Water St.- (510)627-1215

Western Aerospace Museum-8260 Boeing St.-(510)638-7100,

Alameda Museum- 2324 Alameda Avenue-(510)444-2187

Oakland Museum of California-10th and Oak Streets-(510)238-3842

Oakland Museum Sculpture Court at City Center-1111 Broadway-(510)238-3401

Pro Arts Gallery -461 Ninth St.-(888)625-6873,

Events and Tours

Farmer’s Markets: Old Oakland on Fri., Jack London Sq. on Sunday (510)814-6000