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Reconnaissance of the Port of San Francisco, with Map


Report of the Pilot Don José de Cañizares to Commander Don Juan de Ayala


Translation of a Certified Copy of the Original in the Archives of th Indies at Seville.

Dear Captain: - During the four times that I made reconnaissance of this Port, and made its map, I found at the northeast and north-northeast what is shown on the map and I here describe. To the north-northeast of Angel Island, distant about a mile, there is a bay running in a direction north-northwest to south-southwest. The distance between the points forming said bay, is about two leagues, and the shore line is about two and a half leagues. To the northwest of the shore there are three small islands, forming between them and the shore a narrow passage of shallow water closed to the southwest. This bay is all surrounded with hills with few trees, which are mostly laurel and oak, but at a distance to the west-northwest, is visible a wood of what seems to be pines. In the middle of this bay is standing a high farallon with submerged rocks around it. On the northeast of it there is sufficient water for anchorage, as is shown on the map. There is no doubt of its being good anchorage for vessels, provided they have good cables and anchors, for they are subject to great stress because of the current, which at this point, cannot be less than four miles an hour[69].

North-northeast of said bay there is a mouth about two miles wide, where there are four small white rocks, the two north ones with the two south ones[70] form a channel of nine brazas depth. From this, one passes to another bay[71] more spacious, the diameter of which is about eight leagues, its shape a perfect isosceles triangle; its mouth is divided into two channels, - one, on the side of the southwest coast, turns to the northwest at about the distance of a mile and ends in two large harbors which are situated in the same shore at about four league's distance from the mouth that communicates with the first bay; from the northwest point of the furthest harbor to the north of it, distant about one and a half leagues, in turning a point to the west-northwest, a large body of water[72] is seen, which I did not examine because the channel which leads to it is extremely limited, its depth not having three codos[73] of water; from here to the east-northeast follows a low-lying island, just above the water level, ending in a division made by the hills[74]. The other channel, which is roomy and deep, runs directly in a northeast direction till it reaches the division of the hills through a cañon that runs in the same direction.

All the bay, which is called the round bay (Bahia Redondo), though it is not shaped that way, is surrounded with steep hills, without trees, excepting two spots on the slopes fronting the two harbors to the southwest. The rest of it is arid, rugged, and of a melancholic aspect. Outside of the channels there is in this bay about five codos of water, and at low tide two and a half, and in some places it is dry. It is not difficult to enter this bay, but going out will be difficult on account of the wind from the southwest. After a careful examination of its shore, I did not find any fresh water or any signs of it. Standing in the cañon, which is to the northeast, there is a channel[75] a mile and a half wide, deep and clear. East of its entrance there is a ranchería of about four hundred souls. I had dealings with them, but did not buy anything, though I presented them with beads, which you had given me for that purpose, and some old clothing of mine. Their acquaintance was useful to my men and to me, as they presented us with exquisite fishes (amongst them salmon), seeds, and pinole. I had opportunity of visiting them four times and found them always as friendly as the first time, noticing in them polite manners, and what is better, modesty and retirement in the women. They are not disposed to beg, but accept with good will what is given them, without being impertinent, as are many others I have seen during the conquest. This Indian village has some scows or canoes, made of tule, so well constructed and woven that they caused me great admiration. Four men get in them to go fishing, pushing with two-ended oars with such speed that I found they went faster than the launch. These were the only Indians with whom I had communication in this northern part.

Following said channel a distance to the west from its mouth, there is a harbor, so commodious, accessible, abundant in fresh water and wood, and sheltered from all winds, that I considered it one of the best inland ports that our Sovereign has for anchoring a fleet of vessels. I called it Puerto de la Asumpta, having examined it the day of the festivity of that saint[76].

To the southeast of this port[77] the cañon continues, until it joins the channel of the Indian village. Following a distance of three leagues in an east-northeast direction, it enters another bay[78] with a depth of thirteen brazas, diminishing to four where some rivers[79] empty and take the saltiness of the water which there becomes sweet, the same as in a lake. The rivers come, one from the east-northeast (this is the largest, about two hundred and fifty yards wide), the other, which has many branches, comes from the northeast through tulares and swamps in very low land, the channels not over two brazas with sandy bars at their mouths, where I found in sounding the water not more than a half braza. This made me think they were not navigable, especially as on the second occasion I entered them, I touched bottom both in the channels and on the bars. The bay where these rivers empty, is another port larger than the Asumpta, where any vessel may enter, but it would be difficult to obtain wood, which is far from the shore. All the eastern coast is covered with trees; that to the west is arid, dry, full of grasshoppers, and impossible of settlement. This is all I have reconnoitered to the north of Angel Island. To the southeast of said island following the estero is as follows:

To the east of this island, at a distance of about two leagues, there is another, steep and barren, without any shelter, which divides the mouth of the channel in two[80], through which the sea enters to a distance of about twelve leagues. The width of this channel is in some parts, one, two, and three leagues; its depth is not over four brazas, its width ample, but a pistol shot outside of the channel; its depth is not over two brazas. The extreme end of this sound, eastward, forms with a point, a pocket, which, at low tide is nearly dry[81]. In every part there are seen poles driven in (the mud), with black feathers, bunches of tule, and little shells, which I believe are buoys for fishing, since they are in the water. I think it will be impossible to anchor for three leagues inside of this slough, because it is so exposed to the weather that strong cables and good anchorage are needed to hold against the strong current from the north.

The northeast part of this slough is surrounded by high hills, and has in its mouth a thick wood of oaks, and at the other end groves of thick redwood trees. At the southwest of the coast is a small slough, navigable only by launches[82], and on the coast two harbors[83] where vessels can anchor. On the more eastern one there is an Indian village, rough, like the ones in Monterey. This part seems to have better places for missions, though I did not examine it except from a distance.

All the above stated in this report is what I observed, saw, surveyed, and sounded, during the days, in which by your orders, I went to the reconnoitering of this Port of San Francisco in its interior; and as proof of it, I sign it in this new Port of San Francisco, at the shelter of Angel Island, on September 7th, 1775.

José de Cañizares.

[69] This is the body of water between Pt. San Pedro, Pt. San Pablo, Pt. Richmond and Tiburon Peninsula. The high farallon is Red Rock.

[70] The rocks are The Sisters and The Brothers.

[71] San Pablo Bay.

[72] Napa Slough. The marsh was evidently under water, and island number one, with Mare Island, made one long island.

[73] Codo - 1 1/2 feet.

[74] Mare Island. The division of the hills or cañon is Carquines Strait.

[75] Carquines Straits.

[76] The Assumption of the Virgin - August 15th. It is Southampton bay.

[77] That is, from Puerto de la Asumpta.

[78] Suisun Bay.

[79] The Sacramento and San Joaquin. Suisun Bay was long known as Puerto Dulce - Freshwater Port.

[80] Yerba Buena or Goat Island. Cañizaries marked it on the map (c) for isla do Alcatraces, but that evidently was a mistake, as a comparison of the entry in the Log under date of August 12, with the map will show.

[81] Oakland and Berkeley tide flats.

[82] Islais creek.

[83] Yerba Buena cove and Mission bay.

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