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History of the Petaluma River and the City

At rivers bend
A hard journey to Petaluma through all the curves in the river
Unauthorized use - Photo belongs to the W. Roop and K. Flynn

This is my favorite story, courtesy of one of the wonderful women that volunteer at the Petaluma Museum. A must see by the way. Ask to see the picture binders and the conversation will flow. The photo is dull, but shows well the curves that once existed.
In the early days when Petaluma was really a bustling city supplying the city of San Francisco with fresh meat and poultry, not to mention the eggs and there were many people becoming rich. Well, two gentlemen who were unable to compete in Petaluma decided they would outsmart the Petaluma business men and start their own town to the south just inside the big "U" curve in the river. It would make life so much easier for the boats to navigate. Just imagine what the people of Petaluma thought when a town was emerging to their south. Now remember, these men (the Petaluma men) were now quite wealthy and were not about to lose everything. They got together and dredged out a section of the land rendering the river straight in that area making it unnecessary to navigate the "U" curve. New Town was eventually abandoned.

Helping hands on the Steamer

Captain, crew and guests pushing the boat off the shore
Unauthorized use - Photo belongs to the W. Roop and K. Flynn

There is a detailed description of a journey to Petaluma from San Francisco that goes something like this. The Petaluma Creek, which appears to be no more than a windy, narrow ditch, makes up the marshes north of San Pablo Bay. A tidal slough, meaning the tide ebbs and flows, where the direction you were heading was not easy to tell due to the extreme shifts and curves of the creek. The journey consisted of the steamer traveling short distances and the captain having to stop and go as he went forward and back trying to navigate the turns in the creek. Many times the steamer hit ground and became stuck requiring the captain and crew and many of the passengers to grab long poles and push the steamer of the land only to go a short distance further and have to repeat the process. (See the picture below) The travelers of the day arrived in Petaluma covered in mud. Early on, the steamers would only go as far as haystack landing where the passengers would disembark and go by coach the rest of the way (2 miles) to Petaluma.

Men were busy straightening the creek for easier access to Petaluma. In 1959, the Petaluma Creek was upgraded to the Petaluma River by an "act of Congress" so the river could qualify for dredging.

River - Petaluma to San Pablo Bay

View of the River from Petaluma to San Pablo Bay
The curves no longer needing to be navigated
Unauthorized use - Photo belongs to the W. Roop and K. Flynn

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