Middle Harbor Shoreline Park
Driving past the countless semi trucks that barrel around Oakland’s busy port and its giant steel-limbed gantry cranes, I was convinced I would never find Middle Harbor Shoreline Park. Just as I was about to give up, the salvaged mast of the USS Oakland, an anti-aircraft cruiser decommissioned in 1949, welcomed me to the park’s east entrance.
Driving past the countless semi trucks that barrel around Oakland’s busy port and its giant steel-limbed gantry cranes, I was convinced I would never find Middle Harbor Shoreline Park. Just as I was about to give up, the salvaged mast of the USS Oakland,
an anti-aircraft cruiser decommissioned in 1949, welcomed me to the park’s east entrance.
This 38-acre landscaped green space, the site of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet supply center from World War II until 1998, lies in the midst of the vast industrial landscape of an active container seaport. The Oakland’
s mast heralds the park’s many historical maritime features, including bollards for tying up ships, pier remnants, and the outlined footprint of the Navy’s four-acre warehouse. Other features include a sandy beach, an amphitheater, a large restored salt marsh, and nearly three miles of wide, level trails that weave through the park.
At the park’s center is Point Arnold, a 16-acre grassy peninsula with a wharf (44-inch railings), an accessible viewing telescope, and picnic sites.
Trailhead: Numerous locations throughout the park
Length: Over 4 total miles
Typical Width: 4 ft. & above
Typical Grade: LevelThere’s only one gentle grade, to the observation tower.
Terrain: FirmTrails throughout have eroded and are rough in places. Don’t expect a smooth ride.
You can explore the shoreline and inland areas of the park while learning about the site's history, its environmental resources, and the adjacent maritime activities from the interpretive panels scattered throughout. For great views as well as an overview of the park, begin your exploration at the observation tower at the park’s southern end. It’s best to follow the upper path from the parking lot to the tower because from the lower path you have to take an elevator to the tower, and it has been out of service during all of my numerous visits.
Next, backtrack to the lower trails that traverse the 10-acre peninsula, which was the site of the Western Pacific Mole, an early 20th-century railroad terminal that provided both a shipping connection for local and international freight and a ferry station to take railroad passengers to and from San Francisco. If you’re lucky you might see container ships being loaded and unloaded, and on a clear day, see both the Bay Bridge and Richmond–San Rafael Bridge.
Work your way back to the parking lot, where you can pick up the .75-mile shoreline promenade that links to the park’s center and Point Arnold at the northern end. Look for resident birds such as Forster's terns, double-crested cormorants, and brown pelicans. In the evening, you may be dazzled by a broad sunset.
Past the picnic area is Point Arnold and the wharf where people fish; a California fishing license is required here. You can extend your trip another half-mile to Port View Park on a section of Bay Trail that parallels Seventh Street and the railroad tracks.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Several lots, all reachable from either Middle Harbor Rd. or Seventh St., have accessible spaces, including the one at the southernmost end of the park road.
Restrooms (open during staff hours) are west of the Oakland’
s mast near the east parking lot, and on the ground floor of the Mole’s observation tower.
Several are at the park's center; one is on the pier
Other Things of Interest
Nearby Port View Park juts into San Francisco Bay on a man-made peninsula. This little park, once a railway terminus, provides great views of operations at the nearby Port of Oakland Seventh Street Terminal, and you can fish here without a license. Just west of the parking lot is the “Room With a View” exhibit in the train tower, where railway personnel once directed traffic. A wheelchair lift takes you up to the second story, affording fantastic views of the port, the Bay Bridge, and both downtown Oakland and San Francisco, which are about equidistant from the pier. Take a look at the exhibit, too, where you will learn about Oakland’s role in the Bay Area's development.
Reviewed by Bonnie Lewkowicz, September 12, 2014