Crissy Field San Francisco – The Presidio's Playground

Crissy Field in San Francisco is many things — it's a recreation area; a land, marsh & sea restoration area; and a community center all rolled into one. Located on the northern end of the peninsula in The Presidio, the restored Crissy Field is a place to walk, run, or cycle through the meandering trail that winds between Marina Green and Fort Point. The reward? Spectacular views of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge.

Since 2001, Crissy Field's transformation from a military airfield into a vibrant environmental leisure complex has been made possible by San Francisco civic pride. The Haas family (of the Haas-Lilienthal House), as well as thousands of community volunteers and donors have worked and donated generously to make the transformation possible.

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It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Crissy Field

Crissy Field map

Once an airstrip and a military hub, Crissy Field is San Francisco's newest center for recreation with a restored wetlands and dramatic views of Golden Gate. This is the place where locals and visitors gather to have picnics on the beach, observe tidal marshes and even windsurf.

In 2010, the Crissy Field Center moved from the Presidio Parkway and into an interim location. The facility hosts a cutting edge media lab, arts workshop, science lab, and gathering room. It's also a hub of community-center programs and a meeting place for local community organizations. The temporary prefab eco-structure was designed and built by local Project Frog. The permanent Crissy Field Center will use wind turbines, solar panels, rainwater catchment and earth-friendly building materials to to meet LEED Platinum certification.

The Beach Hut & The Warming Hut

Come for a chai latte at the Beach Hut and know that all the profits go to supporting the Crissy Field Center's educational programs. The Beach Hut cafe offers freshly baked muffins, juices, soups and salads.

As the name implies, the Warming Hut is a place to escape the cool breeze and grab a snack and a hot chocolate and, perhaps, buy a book about the local habitat. Located at the foot of Golden Gate Bridge, the eco-design elements include recycled redwood finishes and countertops made from recycled glass bottles. The Warming Hut has walk-up window service, outdoor seating, and a barbecue area.

  • The Warming Hut – 983 Marine Drive
  • The Beach Hut – 1199 East Beach

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Top Tips for Visiting Crissy Field

  • Make sure to pack sweatshirts, windbreakers, sunblock, and sunglasses, too, as the wind can blow sand.
  • Although the water is clean and safe, pay attention to the warnings when they are posted.
  • The wind typically picks up by midday. If you want to avoid the wind, plan your trip to Crissy Field during the early morning hours.
  • You can fish or crab legally without a license at Torpedo Wharf at the west end of Crissy Field. Look for posted regulations.
  • If you love birdwatching, head to Crissy Field where 154 species of bird have been spotted in the restoration area. Common to the area is the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) and the snowy egret. The near-extinct western snowy plover has also been spotted roosting on the beach.

From Waste Dump to Thriving Coastal Habitat

Coastal Habitat

Since 1997, the cleanup of hazardous materials at Crissy Field has resulted in the removal of almost 90,000 tons of contaminated materials. The restoration of the 100-acre site includes the tidal marsh and dune habitat that links to the Bay. 230,000 cubic yards of mud, dirt and sand were excavated to open the tides, allowing fresh and salt water to merge at Crissy Field for the first time in 100 years.

Since the late 1990s, forty acres of natural coastal habitat have been restored including an eighteen-acre tidal marsh and twenty-two acres of dune habitat. Almost 100,000 native plants were planted in the restoration area. The marsh also provides habitat for a variety of fish and crustaceans — nineteen species of fish have been collected since 2000.

History of Crissy Field, San Francisco

Crissy Field

The story of Crissy Field is linked to the early days of of aviation. Named for Major Dana Crissy, it was the military's first Air Coast Defense Station on the west coast.

Following the close of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, army officers recommended the now-vacant bay-front site be used as an Air Coast Defense Station. In 1921 the plan was approved. The early facilities were simple, with a grassy, kidney-shaped field that followed the outline of the Expo's racetrack. In an era of biplanes, the site was perfect as a makeshift grass landing pad. The army also constructed hangars, workshops, an administration building, barracks and a guardhouse.

Between the World Wars, Crissy Field's research and innovation helped to develop the essential air power needed to win the Allied victory. It was here that flying records were set, long-distance flights were started and ended, and where early aviators charted new territory above the clouds.

In 1994, the Presidio was transferred from the military to the National Park Service (part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area).

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The Planes that Flew at Crissy Field

The De Havilland DH-4 was a World War I workhorse. It was the most used aircraft of World War I and continued to be the most popular plane in America during the 1920s. The versatile plane was modified after wartime to perform many functions in peacetime. Major Dana Crissy was flying a De Havilland DH-4 in the first transcontinental flight when he perished landing his plane outside of Salt Lake City.

The Douglas O-2 plane succeeded the De Havilland DH-4 when its redesigned fuselage streamlined carriage and wings of unequal length gave it an innovative advantage.

  • Crissy Field
  • 1199 East Beach
  • The Presidio

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