This pier is built on the remains of the old Santa Fe Ferry Terminal that was the western terminus of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. As the story goes, Augustin S. MacDonald had the vision of the site as a port and railroad terminal. It was he who broached the idea to the movers and shakers at Santa Fe. They apparently liked the idea when they found out it was 12 miles closer by rail than the Peralta Street Terminal for ferries in Oakland.
On July 4, 1900, after construction of ferry slips and tracks to the site, the Santa Fe inaugurated service by delivering 200 passengers from San Francisco to Point Richmond on the Santa Fe’s first ferry, the Ocean Wave. After arrival, many of the people boarded the railroad’s first through train to Chicago. To handle freight connections, terminals were built at the foot of Channel Street in China Basin, a “car float” slip was built adjacent to Pier 54 in San Francisco, and further landing facilities were constructed in Oakland and Alameda. Connections were made to the Northwest Pacific Railroad facilities in Tiburon.
For three decades these various terminals (passenger, car and freight) were busy with traffic—but that would change with the opening of the Bay Bridge in 1936. Nevertheless, even though the Santa Fe discontinued its own passenger ferries in 1933, ferries and other boats transported rail cars, cargo and people from the terminal to San Francisco until 1980 (and nearby sat the Southern Pacific Golden Gate Ferry Terminal which operated during the 1920s and 1930s).
The restrooms and fish cleaning station are located by the parking lot
During much of the pier’s history, local anglers with the know-how, and connections, were able to go out and catch fish at the pier. Later, after the demise of the ferry operations, it became an even more important home for local fisherman—until a fire in 1984. Since that time local fishermen repeatedly spoke of a need for a local pier and apparently the East Bay Regional Park District listened.
In February of 2001, the Wildlife Conservation Board announced the final grant ($500,270) needed to complete the pier project that had been in the works for nearly ten years. The cost of more than $2,000,000 includes rehabilitation of nearly 3,000 square feet of structure area—replacement of wooden piers and steel piles—and repainting of the historic gallows structure and machinery house (as well as interpretive signs showing the history of the pier and how the machinery worked). Money for the project came from the Wildlife Conservation Fund, the California Coastal Conservancy ($492,000), Caltrans ($376,000) and funds raised by the East Bay Regional Park District itself ($713, 000).
Most of the old landings have been torn down and are now history. The Point Richmond Landing, even if in decrepit shape, gives evidence of those times when there were no bridges, no hundreds of thousands of cars crossing them daily, and much less of the crowding that seems to clog our daily life today. Some argue it was a better life, some argue it was worse. No one can argue that it was a slower and less crowded life.
Ferry Point Pier Facts
Hours: The park is open 5 am – 10 pm (although signs say 7 am to dusk). The parking lot is only open from 7 am – 4;30 pm. Locals say if you are inside the parking lot when the gate is locked you can stay as long as you want; cars can still exit but not enter the parking lot.
Facilities: The pier itself includes lights and one trash can, nothing else. The park contains restrooms near the parking lot and a nice fish cleaning station. To the left of the park entry area is a path built down to the water for kayakers AND a shower that can be used to rinse off the saltwater by returning kayakers. The park, by the way, appears a favorite place for people to bring their dog for a romp as well as people who like to fly kites.
Handicapped Facilities: Railings are 42 inches high.
How To Get There: From I-580, there are two main Point Richmond exits, Canal Boulevard and Castro Street (also the south terminus of the Richmond Parkway). Take either into the center of town where you should see Dornan Drive and a tunnel that says Ferry Point. Go through the tunnel and continue out to the end of Dornan Drive. The park is intersected by Dornan Drive and Brick Cove Road.
Management: East Bay Regional Park District