San Francisco Tour Tales

 Aquatic Park Pier

by Carol Walker

Aquatic Park was a dream for many years before it came to life as a water wonderland in 1939. Building the pier was integral to the development of the park because the pier’s underwater baffles protected the then-named Black Point Cove from tidal action, and created a site safe for swimming and boating in San Francisco. The loss of this pier could doom Aquatic Park and the Hyde Street Pier as we know them.

The actual construction of the pier took place 1931-1934 in the depths of the depression by the Works Progress Administration. A Works Progress Administration fact sheet revealed in ” the great curve of the Municipal Pier…and it completely fills the need for a central water playland .” Electricity and plumbing were included but the supposed crowning element of the pier, the little roundhouse, did not get finished and was never used as a comfort station and concession stand. In spite of that, the public has been out on the pier enjoying its many amenities since 1934.

The pier is visited daily by locals and visitors alike: walkers, cyclists, fishermen, and photographers. Stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Coit Tower can be captured in sunshine or fog and even in the sunset gloom that sometimes envelopes the Bay.

At 85-years old, the pier is not aging gracefully. The deterioration has lead to large sections on the western side being fenced off. Replacement of the pier will be needed. It is now the responsibility of the National Park Service and it cannot begin to meet the expense. Public-private financing is necessary.

A Save Aquatic Park Pier Committee has been formed under the umbrella of the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association, a non-profit friends organization that supports the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, including the Aquatic Park Pier. The dream now is to replace the pier with its beautiful elements for the public’s pleasure, and the protection it offers for our swimming cove and our historic ship collection.


Sea Letter – the Maritime Park Association magazine – Winter 2016, article by Kevin Hendricks, Superintendent of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

Editors note: This article originally appeared in the August, 2017 issue of Guidelines, a publication of SF City Guides.