There’s a fascinating piece of history in San Rafael at China Camp State Park. It’s the history of the migrants from Kwantung (Canton) Province, China, to the beaches of San Rafael in the 1860’s, and the shrimping community they built here over the course of the next few decades.
At this charmingly rustic spot, Chinese immigrants sailed junks (long wooden Chinese fishing boats) out into the San Francisco Bay to catch fish and shrimp. Now, I find that absolutely fascinating. I am sure that very few Californians have any idea that junks used to ply these waters. And, that the shrimp from the Bay were cooked and dried and shipped off to China and other Asian countries. The direction of exports has certainly reversed in 150 years!
This is the only Chinese fishing village still in existence in the Bay Area, where once there were many. There is actually one descendant, Frank Quan, of a Chinese family who immigrated here in the 1890’s still living and working in China Camp Village. Frank’s family owned the land before it became part of a state park, so he lives right here in his modest home, runs his snack bar, and occasionally nets some shrimp which he sells for bait. He’s pretty concerned about the possibility of state parks closing, because that would end his livelihood.
There’s a small museum with artifacts from the fishing village, that is open from 10 – 5 on weekends, with a docent present to talk about China Camp history. Also, on the last Saturday of the month, from 3:30 – 4:30, the docent leads a Junior Ranger program geared for kids 7-12 years old, and it’s free! May’s program theme is “Animal Life” and will be held next Saturday, the 28th.
Where : China Camp Village within China Camp State Park (map)
Parking: Park at the China Camp Point parking lot
Hours: Museum open weekends from 10-5; Junior Ranger Program 3:30 – 4:30 on the last Saturday of the month