The Sonoma Coast State Beaches are one of the most popular coastal drive destinations in the California State Park system. This stretch lies on the west side of Highway One, winding its way north of Old Town Bodega Bay up to Jenner and the mouth of the Russian River. The coastal drive continues north on Highway One from Jenner to Timber Cove, Gualala, and beyond into Mendocino County. The California Coastal Commission has strictly limited current development, and no new development is permitted on the coast, thus ensuring that Bodega Bay’s natural beauty remains for decades to come.
Tourism brings hundreds of thousands of people through Bodega Bay each year, and is the driving force behind the stability of Bodega Bay’s economy. Bodega Bay prides itself on locally owned and locally operated businesses. A small community that supports each other, the success of these businesses relies in large part on the tourists that flock to Bodega Bay throughout the year. The peak of the tourist season is experienced in summer, however, Bodega Bay experiences its most beautiful weather in fall, and has become a popular vacation destination year round. Bodega Bay’s popularity as a vacation destination has increased dramatically over the past two decades. Today, Bodega Bay has approximately 280 motel and lodge units, 230 vacation home rentals and 340 campground spaces.
Up until 1989, salmon fishing was the center of Bodega Bay’s economic stability. Earliest indications of salmon fishing are from the 1870s, when trains connecting San Francisco and Sonoma County made trading fresh fish from Bodega Bay possible. Of note, the first real economic boom from fishing was during the 1910s and 1920s. By the 1980s, Bodega Bay’s fishing industry was estimated at $15,000,000 and had a fishing fleet of 300+ boats. In 1985, Bodega Bay opened Spud Point Marina, an $8,000,000 facility that was considered state of the art.
In the early 1990s, California experienced a long few seasons of drought, which coupled with huge declines in the fish population, caused a serious plunge in the fishing industry. Much needed rain in 1994 helped elevate the salmon population, however, the health of the fishing industry in Bodega Bay did not improve greatly. The Department of Fish and Game has established a limit for the number of pounds of salmon that can be caught in a day for both commercial and sport fishermen to help prevent the extinction of Wild King Salmon. These restrictions have forced fishermen to seek out other species of fish and sea life (such as crab, rockfish, sole, and sea urchins) to make their living.
Despite its decline as the mainstay of Bodega Bay’s economy, it is still a vital part of this small community.