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Viewing the Carquinez bird and boat parade.

Barges, tugboats, and container ships parade daily along the Carquinez Strait, at the northeast end of San Pablo Bay. And now there's balcony viewing of the passing show-from Carquinez Shoreline Regional Park, opened last summer.

On a cool fall day, it's a fine spot for biking, cycling, or picnicking. To make a 9-mile (one way) hike or bike trip out of it, continue east to Martinez's shoreline park for marsh bird-watching.

The 969-acre Carquinez park is 22 miles northeast of Oakland. Take Interstate 80 north, then State 4 east 5 miles; exit on McEwen Road and go 2 1/2 miles north to its end. Turn left at Carquinez Scenic Drive and go I mile to the parking lot and trailhead, at Bull Valley Staging Area.

The 2-mile Overlook Loop Trail is a wide, fairly level path snaking along the top of a grassy ridge. Bear right then left to stay on the main trail. The trail is exposed to wind, but views are clear and open. Westward is the 1927 Carquinez Bridge and its 1958 near-twin; eastward is the 1961 Benicia Bridge.

A picnic table at about 1 mile marks the loop's midpoint; just beyond, a spur trail leads down 1/4 mile into Port Costa and puts you on Prospect Avenue, which leads to Canyon Lake Road (the main street). Here, boardwalks and balconied buildings hint at Port Costa's prosperous past: in the 1880s, it was the state's busiest grain-shipping port. The brick 1881 McNear's Warehouse still stands on Canyon Lake Road, though few businesses remain.

Backtrack for a roughly 3-mile round trip (it's steep heading back). For more views of the strait, continue 6 1/4 miles to Martinez Regional Shoreline Park. Head back up Canyon Lake to Carquinez Scenic Drive and turn left. After about a mile, you'll reach a 4 1/2-mile section of Scenic that's closed to autos because of storm damage but open to hikers and cyclists (watch for broken glass). Stay on Scenic to Marina Vista; turn left, then left again on Ferry Street to the park.

Within its 343 acres, Martinez shoreline park has picnic areas, a duck pond, an exercise course, and a bird-lively marsh. You can take a 1-mile loop trail (bikes permitted) into the marsh to look for avocets, killdeer, and white pelicans.
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Title Annotation:Carquinez Shoreline Regional Park, California
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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