Bay Model Visitors Center
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, San Francisco District
2100 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965 Phone: 415-332-3871
If you don’t plan to drive, Big Bus Tours, a hop-on hop-off service, has a stop at The Bay Model as well as downtown Sausalito and Fort Baker. I take a walk around the Bay Model several times a week with Miss T and I see their buses all the time. This route allows you to also visit the Sausalito houseboats (several blocks to the north) and to many more spots listed in our Fun Things to Do in Sausalito page. Note: Because of their enhanced services we sought them out and Big Bus Tours is now a sponsor of OurSausalito.
Insiders Tip: Although the address for the Bay Model Visitors Center is on Bridgeway, the building itself is actually located on Marinship Way, which splits off of Bridgeway and runs down a small hill to the building. The satellite photo at the bottom of this page shows the huge complex (including the new solar panels on the roof!), and the map shows how Bridgeway and Marinship Way intersect.
Insiders Tip: The street that leads to the building has very little in the way of signs and the facility just looks like an industrial building with a series of rounded roof areas until you reach the corner by the driveway. The entrance to the Bay Model faces the Bay and is shown in the photo at the top of this page. Once you get to the main parking lot you’ll see that side of the building.
Insiders Tip: The street in front of the Bay Model was changed in 2015 so that you can access the parking lot from either direction, but you can only exit the Bay Model by turning south (turn left and go through the narrow parking lot as you exit the main parking area). Your route coming to the Bay Model is unchanged.
Saviors of the Bay
Click here to read how the Army Corps of Engineers created the Bay Model to save us from a scheme worthy of a Bond Villain!
Great Rainy Day Spot with the Kids!
When it’s raining the Bay Model is a sprawling place to visit that’s both dry and fascinating for kids. It’s not a place where kids get a chance to run, but they’ll do a lot of walking as they look at the multi-acre working model of San Francisco Bay.
Bay Model Hours
Winter Hours: The Bay Model Visitor Center is open Tuesday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
The facility is closed Sundays & Mondays.
The Bay Model is closed on the following Holidays:
Labor Day Weekend (Open, but it requires purchasing a separate ticket since it becomes part of the Sausalito Art Festival)
Saturday, December 24 for Christmas Eve
Saturday, December 31 for New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Day
Admission is free but there’s a donation box is in the lobby (and that donation is well deserved, since they’re teaching people to preserve the Bay we all depend upon).
Another reason to donate: See this link for how the Bay Model and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers helped save San Francisco Bay from a man-made disaster in the 1950’s!
A Fascinating Super-Sized Simulator
There’s a little-known reason “Why the Bay Model should win an international award for saving San Francisco Bay!” The facility was originally built in unused government buildings to evaluate different options for real estate development, new land creation by filling in shallow portions of the Bay, and different transportation and water storage ideas. Some of those ideas werwe downright irresponsible (OK, they were crazy) but it took the creation of the Bay Model to prove it.
The Bay Model and the Bay Model Visitor Center is a research and education facility built and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Inside is one of the most fascinating scientific tools you’ll ever see: a working hydraulic model of San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta Systems.
The Bay Model allows scientists, educators and visitors the chance to view the complete bay-delta system not just in 3D on a screen, but in three dimensions in real life, complete with real water and “real” tides and currents. It’s over two acres in size, a structure so immense you can’t comprehend it until you see it. The building that houses it would be larger than a full city block in many cities. Special walkways allow you to walk around in the middle of the model, not just at the edges.
What makes the model special is that its pipes and hydraulics make it a real simulation of the water environment of San Francisco Bay and the Delta. There are no glowing Disney-style cityscapes, just a highly accurate physical model that can be used to simulate the effects of everything from oil spills to upstream dams, and fromwater diversions to floods caused by global warming.
They have a regular cycle of special events and presentations. Tours are available for groups with advanced reservations, and can be tailored to the technical sophistication of the group. The Corps of Engineers also makes the Visitor Center available to scientific and educational groups for meetings and seminars under a set of written guidelines. For more information on group events call (415) 332-3871.
Insiders Tip: Because they’re part of the Army Corps of Engineers and are set up as a teaching institution the staff members at the Bay Model absolutely LOVE to answer questions. Ask them on site or call before you come and they’ll be great at responding, and it’s all free. If your kids are especially curious about the Bay this makes a visit here even more fun and fulfilling for everyone because of their great staff.
Below: An Army Corps of Engineers brochure for the Bay Model from 1958, shortly after it opened. (Click to enlarge).
Volunteer at the Bay Model for the Sausalito Art Festival
Every Labor Day Weekend the Bay Model is an integral part of the Sausalito Art Festival, with additional special art exhibits as well as its gigantic water model. The Bay Model needs volunteers each year during this time to help in the bookstore, assist visitors with questions about the Art Festival and the Bay Model, monitor what’s going on in the model and the galleries, and help out with the special kids area.
Volunteers get lots of great perks, not to mention free admission to the Festival!
To volunteer to help out during the Art Festival you can call Tammi Skalitzky at (415) 289-3027 or email her at Tammi.M.Skalitzky@usace.army.mil.