A San Francisco Ghost Town

You don’t need to travel to the old mining districts of the west to find a ghost town. On an island at the south end of San Francisco Bay is what remains of the town of Drawbridge.

Located on the eighty acre Station Island in the salt marshes at the southern end of San Francisco Bay, the town of Drawbridge started in 1876 when a residence for George Mundershietz, the tender of  swing-bridges across Mud Creek Slough and Coyote Creek, was built. Word got out that this was a great location to fish and hunt, or just escape the “urban” life of the “mainland”. More people moved in, building cabins on stilts. Population peaked in 1926 with about 90 structures on the island. Drawbridge became the only town inside the salt marshes of San Francisco Bay.

Drawbridge was always a town of independent spirits, with no police or plumbing. Women felt free to wear men’s clothing. Joe and Hedwig Sprung opened a small hotel around 1903 and sold fresh water from their well to the other inhabitants for three dollars a year.

In the end, the residents polluted the water around the island with their waste. The creation of commercial solar evaporation salt ponds and filling of the marsh as towns on the shore expanded spelt Drawbridge’s deathnell. The last known resident, Charlie Luce, held out until October 1979.

Drawbridge
Aerial view of the remains of Drawbridge, CA. Courtesy of Google Maps

Today, Drawbridge is in a section of the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge that is not open to visitors. The ghost town is partially visible from “Drawbridge Island” (see map below), which can be reached on foot or bicycle on the via the Mallard Slough Spur Trail. Parking is available at either the Refuge’s Environmental Education Center or the Alviso Marina. Both close at Sunset.

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