Drakes Estero is an expansive estuary in the Point Reyes National Seashore of Marin County on the Pacific coast of northern California in the United States, approximately 25 miles (40 km) northwest of San Francisco.
Location and description
Situated at  the estuary provides the main drainage for the Point Reyes peninsula. Seen from the air, Drakes Estero resembles a human hand, with Barries Bay, Creamery Bay, Schooner Bay, and Home Bay as the "fingers" and Limantour Bay as the thumb. The waters of the Estero flow into Drakes Bay between Drakes Beach and a narrow strip of land called Limantour Spit.,
Drakes Estero is a Congressionally-designated "potential wilderness area." Although Drakes Estero is protected as part of the National Seashore, legacy agricultural uses such as dairy farms and oyster aquaculture have led to controversy over the water quality, conservation status, and proper uses of this body of water.
Conservationists, including L. Martin Griffin, Jr. and oceanographer Sylvia Earle called for an end to the ongoing oyster farming in the estero. Senator Dianne Feinstein criticized the National Park Service, alleging that data used to support the non-renewal was flawed. On November 29, 2012, United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar directed the National Park Service to allow the permit for oyster farming to expire, allowing the land and waters of the estero to return to their natural state.
A lawsuit was filed on December 4, 2012 by Kevin Lunny, the owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Company, to declare the decision by Salazar null and void. In February 2013, the 9th Cir. issued an injunction on the order to close Drakes Bay Oyster Company until it heard the company's appeal. However, on January 14, 2014 the court declined to rehear the case. The final court challenge to the order to remove the oyster farming was dropped in early December, 2014, with the removal of the operation completed in May, 2017.
Drakes Estero has been designated as the most probable landing spot of Francis Drake on the coast of North America in 1579 during his circumnavigation of the world and has been established as a National Historic Landmark. A historical marker has been placed on Drakes Beach near the Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center and monuments to Drake have been erected at the Drake's Cove landing site. The Drake landing is interpreted at the Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center and the Point Reyes National Seashore's Bear Valley Visitor Center.
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Drakes Estero
- The Point Reyes Wilderness Act. U.S. Congress. Oct 18, 1976.
- "Marin Voice - Oyster bill: What's at stake?" (PDF). Retrieved September 9, 2012.
- "GUEST OPINION: Feinstein is risking our Point Reyes heritage". Retrieved September 9, 2012.
- "Feinstein 'stunned' by data manipulation allegations". KGO-TV. March 29, 2012. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- Salazar, Kenneth. "Secretary". Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Archived from the original on August 14, 2013.
- Fimrite, Peter; Berton, Justin (November 29, 2012). "U.S. evicting Point Reyes oyster farmer". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
- Bob Egelko (February 25, 2013). "Drakes Bay Oyster Co. gets reprieve". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
- "Court denies Drakes Bay Oyster Co. petition to have its case reheard". Retrieved January 14, 2014.
- The Drake’s Cove site began its review by the National Park Service (NPS) in 1994 , thus starting an 18-year study of the suggested Drake sites. The first formal Nomination to mark the Nova Albion site at Drake’s Cove as a National Historic Landmark was provided to NPS on January 1, 1996. As part of its review, NPS obtained independent, confidential comments from professional historians. The NPS staff concluded that the Drake’s Cove site is the “most probable”  and “most likely”  Drake landing site. The National Park System Advisory Board Landmarks Committee sought public comments on the Port of Nova Albion Historic and Archaeological District Nomination  and received more than two dozen letters of support and none in opposition. At the Committee’s meeting of November 9, 2011 in Washington, DC, representatives of the government of Spain, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Congresswoman Lynn Wolsey all spoke in favor of the nomination: there was no opposition. Staff and the Drake Navigators Guild’s president, Edward Von der Porten, gave the presentation. The Nomination was strongly endorsed by Committee Member Dr. James M. Allan, Archeologist, and the Committee as a whole which approved the nomination unanimously. The National Park System Advisory Board sought further public comments on the Nomination : no additional comments were received. At the Board’s meeting on December 1, 2011 in Florida, the Nomination was further reviewed: the Board approved the nomination unanimously. On October 17, 2012 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar formally established the Drakes Bay Historic and Archaeological District as a National Historic Landmark.
- "The Drake Navigators Guild Press Release". Retrieved October 18, 2012.