Mt. Rainier and Lenticular Clouds - Dec. 2008 copyright: JMM

February 22, 2007

San Francisco Open Your Golden Gate

The beautiful Golden Gate Bridge. I commuted over it for 4 years when I lived in Marin (to the North) and worked in San Francisco, and I never stopped noticing it. Here are some pictures I shot of the Bridge.

This first one was taken from the Marin Headlands. Our apartment was in the Richmond District, very close to the Bridge and the Ocean. We could clearly hear the fog horns at our place, and it always felt so comforting. We felt safe, wrapped in the shroud of fog, all snug in our apartment, with the various horns singing out - first the resonant one on the Bridge, then 2 short higher pitched blasts from the Marin side, and when there were extremely foggy conditions, a very loud, deep bass fog horn from Mile Rock (located one mile outside the Gate). We felt so isolated from the rest of the world, as if San Francisco was an island, especially in our quiet neighborhood. You could go out to the little store around the corner at night and see the fog blowing up Geary Boulevard in the street lights.

One lazy Sunday afternoon we heard the fog horns start up, and we jumped in the car and raced over the Bridge to the Marin Headlands and we weren't disappointed!! This is another semi-foggy day, and I shot this from Fort Point on the San Francisco side, under the Bridge.
Here's a black and white, also taken from Fort Point, of the Bridge structure.

Another black & white of the Bridge soaring above Fort Point.

And this one I posted in December, of sunrise on Christmas Day 1991 or 1992, taken from the Marin Headlands.

Did you know?
  • From 1775 to the 1840's, the straight was called "Boca del Puerto de San Francisco", or "Mouth of the Port of San Francisco.
  • After the 1840's, John Fremont wrote in his memoirs that he would name the straight "The Golden Gate". The grasses on the Headlands and hills of the Bay Area turn bright gold in the summer months, so looking east from the ocean at the straight, it truly looks like a golden gate, esp. when Fremont saw it prior to the various cities being built.
  • It's the second largest suspension bridge in the USA, after the Verrazano Narrows in NYC.
  • The Bridge was completed in 1937, and is the engineering miracle of brainchild Joseph Strauss.
  • Before there was a Bridge, the only way to get to Marin County and points north was to either take a ferry, or drive the long way around - south to San Jose, and then back north through the East Bay.
  • The Bridge is not "gold", but International Orange. This is a common misconception. It's the straight entering into SF Bay that is "The Golden Gate".
  • The fog forms because of the hot air rising off the land and the freezing cold waters of the ocean and SF Bay. That's why you can be standing in SF, looking across the Bay at Marin with blue sky all around, but a wall of fog between SF and Marin, with only the top points of the Bridge sticking up. You can watch the fog roll in, and then roll back out to sea. Sometimes you can be standing on the beach in bright sun and see the fog bank standing off shore, and then watch it barrel towards you in a matter of minutes.
  • It's seen more than it's share of suicides....over 1,200 by this time I believe. The Bridge District wants to put up a suicide barrier but the Bay Area revolts against the idea every time it's mentioned.
  • There's a moveable lane-barrier in the center, which allows for 4 lanes into San Francisco in the morning, and 4 lanes back north into Marin in the evening. The toll is now $5, going into SF only.
  • It's been closed 4 times since it opened due to high winds. One stormy day in early 1996, I found myself on the ferry back to Marin because the Bridge was closed and I couldn't take my bus!! The ferry ride was a fun alternative and I'd take it from time to time in nice weather. I'd just pick up the bus at the Larkspur Landing ferry terminal.
  • The speed limit of 45 mph and no lane changing are strictly enforced, to try to lessen the chance of deadly head-on collisions (something that happens frequently).
  • There is a crew of about 30 or so workers under the Bridge every day, performing maintenance, earthquake retrofitting and painting. The painting never ever stops because of the corrosive salt water and air. These brave men have been instrumental in saving people who try to jump to their deaths, often risking their own lives to grab them as they fall. Sometimes you see them climbing up the swooping cables to the top of the towers. I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to do that, even though you are roped to the guide cables.


  1. Great post, great pics.

    I would add that after an accident during its building, a safety net was stretched underneath and no more lives were lost for the duration of construction, even though numerous men did fall and were caught by the net. These men formed a club that they called the Halfway-to-Hell Club.

    One small correction (maybe)- I have never heard or seen any indication that lane changes are prohibited on the Bridge.

    You may be right about that, but if you are I can assure you that it is hardly strictly enforced. In fact, the 45 MPH speed limit isn't really enforced anymore either although most adhere close to it because we all realize it has a higher purpose - as you say, to save lives.

    Love the fog!!

  2. Wow we are planing a trip that way next year. Those pics are fantastic! I can't wait to see it in person. Love the fog:)

  3. beautiful pictures jojo. i went to san francisco in high school to perform with my orchestra and i'll never forget walking the golden gate bridge. it was such an experience. i want to go back so bad. maybe all us vincent fans should plan a trip sometime eh? haha

  4. Fascinating!I wish this area had some amazing landmark...but what would that be?Some damned army base,a battleship or a beach.

    I have to say,I would never leave my own coast because I hear that the west coast water is cold,even in summer.Here it is as warm as can be and there are planty of beaches that are in a "natural state".

    I guess I could post Kitty Hawk,but I have never been there!

    I will say,NC has amazing stories attached to it though,ghost stories,legends and the most famous pirate ever...Blackbeard! Not nearly as cute as Jack Sparrow!

  5. Mark - Thank you for visiting my blog!! When I lived there (I left in 1999) they were much more strict on the "no lane changing" & 45 mph thing b/c it had just been implemented, so I'm sure it's changed now. Funny you mention the net; I was going to add that in, so thank you for doing so! :)

    Bryde - it's true, the Pacific is ice cold. Not many people, other than surfers in wet suits, go in the water and they sometimes get attacked by great white sharks. The rip tides are treacherous as well.

  6. It's beautiful, JoJo, but NO WAY WOULD YOU EVER GET ME UP THERE!

    I'm scared enough on the QE2 Bridge over the Thames - hey, there's a thought, I might pop over to my blog and borrow your idea.

  7. Anonymous3:20 PM

    What wonderful pictures. I just couldn't believe how COLD it was when I was in San Francisco- and it was August (long time ago now).

  8. Diane - the quote, "the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco" is true. We could always tell the tourists b/c they were the ones in shorts and tshirts, freezing to death, and the rest of us were in sweaters & jeans.

  9. Jojo- Love your photos! They show the beauty of the golden gate bridge. Do you think SF should spend a ton of money to put up an anti-suicide fence? I'm not so sure how I feel about that. I did hear an interview with a guy who survived the jump and he said he was greatful for his life.He also said that immediately after he began falling he felt regret. So I guess it would prevent those impulse jumpers.

  10. I live in Melbourne, our bridge is nothing compared to Sydney's Harbour Bridge. If I commuted over the Sydney Harbour Bridge I would be taking pics like this also. When I visited Sydney, we took the train across it, the commuters were just sitting there, not looking out. They so don't realise what a marvellous structure it is .

  11. Beautiful pictures Jojo...Thank you. But I'm with Val...No way in HELL would you get me on that bridge.

  12. Anonymous9:25 PM


    Beautiful post and pictures, JoJo. You are brilliant with this stuff. You know so much about SF. I have been to Fort Point, too. In elementary school one year our class spent the night there. Wow. Thank you for sharing with all of us.

  13. JoJo - Not only did I visit, but I linked you a while back and just featured this post chez moi!

    You are officially a denizen of The Eagle Wing Palace, as well as an honorary San Franciscan for life.


  14. JoJo - Notg only did I visit, but I linked you a while back and just featured this post chez moi!

    You are officially a denizen of The Eagle Wing Palace, as well as an honorary San Franciscan for life.


  15. Anonymous9:45 AM

    As always, Jojo, incredibly beautiful photographs...
    I am waiting or your first bok of photos to be published

  16. Thanks for this great info, I would love to see it myself sometime. photo nr 1 (fascinating).

    Wish you a wonderful week

  17. you need to update girl!