Marin County is one of the original 27 counties of California, created February 18, 1850, following adoption of the California Constitution of 1849 and just months before the state was admitted to the Union.
According to General Mariano Vallejo, who headed an 1850 committee to name California's counties, the county was named for "Marin," great chief of the tribe Licatiut." Marin had been named "Huicmuse" until he was baptized as "Marino" at about age 20. Marin / Marino was born into the Huimen people, a Coast Miwok tribe of Native Americans who inhabited the San Rafael area. Vallejo believed that "Chief Marin" had waged several fierce battles against the Spanish. Marino definitely did reside at Mission Dolores (in modern San Francisco) much of the time from his 1801 baptism and marriage until 1817, frequently serving as a baptism witness and godfather; he may have escaped and been recaptured at some point during that time. Starting in 1817, he served as an alcalde (in effect, an overseer) at the San Rafael Mission, where he lived from 1817 off and on until his death. In 1821, Marino served as an expedition guide for the Spanish for a couple of years before escaping and hiding out for some months in the tiny Marin Islands (also named after him); his recapture resulted in a yearlong incarceration at the Presidio before his return to the Mission San Rafael area for about 15 years until his death in 1839. In 2009, a plaque commemorating Chief Marin was placed in Mill Valley.
Another version of the origin of the county name is that the bay between San Pedro Point and San Quentin Point was named Bahía de Nuestra Señora del Rosario la Marinera in 1775, and that Marin is simply an abbreviation of this name.
The Coast Miwok Indians were hunters and gatherers whose ancestors had occupied the area for thousands of years. About 600 village sites have been identified in the county. The Coast Miwok numbered in the thousands. Today, there are few left and even fewer with any knowledge of their Coast Miwok lineage. Efforts are being made so that they are not forgotten.
Francis Drake and the crew of the Golden Hind was thought to have landed on the Marin coast in 1579 claiming the land as Nova Albion. A bronze plaque inscribed with Drake's claim to the new lands, fitting the description in Drake's own account, was discovered in 1933. This so-called Drake's Plate of Brass was revealed as a hoax in 2003.
Looking east along the Tennessee Valley Trail, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 828 square miles (2,140 km2), of which 520 square miles (1,300 km2) is land and 308 square miles (800 km2) (37.2%) is water. It is the fourth-smallest county in California by land area. According to the records at the County Assessor-Recorder's Office, as of June 2006, Marin had 91,065 acres (369 km2) of taxable land, consisting of 79,086 parcels with a total tax basis of $39.8 billion. These parcels are divided into the following classifications:
Single Family Residential
Multi Family Residential
A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands
Geographically, the county forms a large, southward-facing peninsula, with the Pacific Ocean to the west, San Pablo Bay, and San Francisco Bay to the east, and – across the Golden Gate – the city of San Francisco to the south. Marin County's northern border is with Sonoma County.
Most of the county's population resides on the eastern side, with a string of communities running along San Francisco Bay, from Sausalito to Tiburon to Corte Madera to San Rafael. The interior contains large areas of agricultural and open space; West Marin, through which State Route 1 runs alongside the California coast, contains many small unincorporated communities whose economies depend on agriculture and tourism. West Marin has beaches which are popular destinations for surfers and tourists year-round.
Notably, the Lagunitas Creek Watershed is home to the largest remaining wild run of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) in Central California. These coho are part of the "Central California Coast Evolutionarily Significant Unit," or CCC ESU, and are listed as "endangered" at both the state and federal level.
Significant efforts to protect and restore these fish have been underway in the Watershed since the 1980s. Fifty percent of historical salmon habitat is now behind dams. Strong efforts are also being made to protect and restore undammed, headwater reaches of this Watershed in the San Geronimo Valley, where upwards of 40% of the Lagunitas salmon spawn each year and where as much as 1/3 of the juvenile salmon (or fry) spend their entire freshwater lives. The "Salmon Protection and Watershed Network" leads winter tours for the public to learn about and view these spawning salmon, and also leads year-round opportunities for the public to get involved in stream restoration, monitoring spawning and smolt outmigration, juvenile fish rescue and relocation in the summer, and advocacy and policy development. Around 490 different species of birds have been observed in Marin County.
Despite the lack of rain in the Marin County area due to historic drought levels, in 2014, an estimated 20,000 juvenile Coho salmon made the migration from their spawning grounds in the Lagunitas Creek area to the Pacific Ocean. This increase in migration was significantly up from the previous historic record for the same migration measured in 2006 at 11,000.
In 2010, all of the county's beaches were listed as the cleanest in the state.
When Richard Henry Dana, Jr. visited San Francisco Bay in 1835, he wrote about vast elk (Cervus canadensis) herds near the Golden Gate on December 27: "...we came to anchor near the mouth of the bay, under a high and beautifully sloping hill, upon which herds of hundreds and hundreds of red deer [note: "red deer" is the European term for "elk"], and the stag, with his high branching antlers, were bounding about...," although it is not clear whether this was the Marin side or the San Francisco side.
As of the census of 2000, there were 247,289 people, 100,650 households, and 60,691 families residing in the county. The population density was 476 people per square mile (184/km2). There were 104,990 housing units at an average density of 202 per square mile (78/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 84.0% White, 2.9% Black or African American, 0.4% Native American, 4.5% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 4.5% from other races, and 3.5% from two or more races. 11.1% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
In 2000, there were 100,650 households, out of which 27.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.4% were married couples living together, 8.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.7% were non-families. 29.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.90.
In the county, the population was spread out, with 20.3% under the age of 18, 5.5% from 18 to 24, 31.0% from 25 to 44, 29.7% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 98.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.4 males.
According to the most recent data on U.S. life expectancy, published in 2010 by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a female in Marin County could expect to live 85.0 years, the longest for any county in the United States. The national average is 80.8 years for a female.
According to the 2006–2008 American Community Survey, 81.3% of Marin County's residents were born in the United States. Approximately 80.0% of the county's residents were born in one of the fifty states or born abroad to American parents.
Foreign-born individuals made up the remaining 18.7% of the population. Latin America was the most common birthplace of foreign-born residents; those born in Latin America made up the plurality (42.2%) of Marin County's foreign population. Individuals born in Europe were the second largest foreign-born group; they made up 25.3% of Marin County's foreign population. Immigrants from Asia made up 23.7% of the county's foreign population. Those born in other parts of North America and Africa made up 3.9% and 3.8% of the foreign-born populace respectively. Lastly, residents born in Oceania made up a mere 1.2% of Marin County's foreign population.
According to the 2006–2008 American Community Survey, English was the most commonly spoken language at home by residents over five years of age; those who spoke only English at home made up 77.1% of Marin County's residents. Speakers of non-English languages accounted for the remaining 22.9% of the population. Speakers of Spanish made up 11.7% of the county's residents, while speakers of other Indo-European languages made up 7.1% of the populace. Speakers of Asian languages and indigenous languages of the Pacific islands made up 3.4% of the population. The remaining 0.7% spoke other languages.
According to the 2007–2009 American Community Survey, there were 16 ancestries in Marin County that made up over 0.9% of its population each. The 16 ancestries are listed below:
For most of the 20th century, Marin County was a Republican stronghold in presidential elections. From 1892 until 1984, the only Democrats to win there were Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. However, the brand of Republicanism prevailing in Marin County was historically a moderate one. Like most of the historically Republican suburbs of the Bay Area, it became friendlier to Democrats as the demographics of the area changed and the national party embraced social and religious conservatism. In 1984, it very narrowly voted for Walter Mondale and has supported the Democratic candidate in every presidential election since then. Since 1988, it has grown to become heavily democratic. Out of California counties, only San Francisco County and Alameda County voted more Democratic in the 2008 Presidential election.
Presidential election results
Marin County vote by party in presidential elections
On November 4, 2008, the citizens of Marin County voted strongly against Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment which eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry, by a 75.1 percent to 24.9 percent margin. The official tally was 103,341 against and 34,324 in favor. Only San Francisco County voted against the measure by a wider margin (75.2% against).
According to the California Secretary of State, as of February 10, 2019, Marin County has 161,870 registered voters. Of those, 89,526 (55.31%) are registered Democrats, 23,380 (14.44%) are registered Republicans, 7,020 (4.35%) are registered with other political parties, and 41,908 (25.89%) have declined to state a political party. Democrats hold wide voter-registration majorities in all political subdivisions in Marin County. Democrats' largest registration advantage in Marin is in the town of Fairfax, wherein there are only 344 Republicans (6.1%) out of 5,678 total voters compared to 3,758 Democrats (66.2%) and 1,276 voters who have declined to state a political party (22.5%).
The last time Marin elected a Republican to represent them in the United States House of Representatives was William S. Mailliard in 1972. The last competitive race for the U.S. House of Representatives in Marin was in 1982 when Barbara Boxer was first elected. The longest serving representative of Marin in congress was Clarence F. Lea who served in the House from 1917 to 1949.
Due to the rapidly expanding nature of California's population, Marin's congressional district has changed numerous times over the decades. The county has been part of the 2nd congressional district of California since 2012; the only other time it was part of the 2nd district was 1902–12. It has also been part of the 1st (1894–1902 and 1912–66), 3rd (1864–94), 5th (1974–82), and the 6th (1972–74 and 1982–2012). The only time the county has not been in a single congressional district was between 1966 and 1972, when it was divided between the northern half in the 1st district and the southern half in the 6th district.
"Marin County hot-tubber"
In 2002, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush denounced convicted American Taliban associate John Walker Lindh as "some misguided Marin County hot-tubber," as a reference to the county's liberal, "hippie" political culture, mispronouncing "Marin" as he did so. Outraged by the label, some local residents wrote scathing letters to the Marin Independent Journal, complaining of Bush's remarks. In response, Bush wrote a letter to readers in the same newspaper, admitting regret and promising to not use the phrases Marin County and hot tub "in the same sentence again."
Local bus routes within Marin County are operated by Golden Gate Transit under contract with Marin Transit. Marin Transit also operates the West Marin Stage, serving communities in the western, rural areas of Marin County, the Muir Woods Shuttle, and 6 community shuttle routes.
The Sonoma–Marin Area Rail Transit system, which began service in August 2017, is a commuter rail service and bicycle-pedestrian pathway serving Sonoma and Marin counties. As of 2019 service operates from Sonoma County Airport to six stations in Marin ending near Larkspur Landing. Later phases of construction will extend service further north to Cloverdale in Sonoma County.
The Marin Airporter offers scheduled bus service to and from Marin County and the San Francisco Airport.
College of Marin, established in 1926, includes two campuses. The Kentfield Campus is in Central Marin; the Indian Valley Campus is in North Marin. The college offers more than 40 degree programs leading to an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree and over 20 Certificates of Achievement with various specialties. The College serves approximately 9,000 students each term. Approximately 5,700 students enroll in COM's credit program. About 1,300 students enroll in English as a Second Language classes. Approximately 1,900 enroll in community education classes. The College employs about 300 permanent staff and faculty and many part-time employees.
Marin is also home to Dominican University of California, in San Rafael. Founded as a women's college in 1890 by the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, it became the first Catholic institution in California to offer bachelor's degrees to women. The college became fully coeducational in 1971, and in 2000 became an independent liberal-arts university, changing from its original name of Dominican College of San Rafael. There are about 1,400 undergraduate and 500 graduate students.
The 2013 gross value of all agricultural production in Marin County was about $84 million; of this, more than $63 million was from the sale of livestock and their products (milk, eggs, wool, etc.). Only 175 acres were planted to grapes.