The Inkwells are small, deep, dark pools beside Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Lagunitas, West Marin. They aren't marked, but they're easy to find. When driving along Drake Boulevard, the Inkwells are just beyond where the houses stop and Samuel P. Taylor State Park begins. As you cross a bridge called Shafter Bridge, the Inkwells are directly on your right, underneath a reddish-colored bridge called the Inkwells Bridge. You walk down a crumbly path to the right of Inkwells Bridge to get to the beautiful, swimmable pools along Lagunitas Creek. There are two of them, one bigger than the other. There are rocks to jump off of and sun to bask in. It is the perfect place for a summer afternoon!
The San Geronimo Valley, including Lagunitas and Lagunitas creek where the Inkwells are, was largely uninhabited and untouched until the 19th century. In the 19th century railroad transportation made it easy to bring goods and passengers through the valley, thereby popularizing the gorgeous area.
From 1875 to 1935 the North Pacific Coast Railroad, then the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, operated trains from Sausalito to Pt. Reyes Station and then farther north to Cazadero in Sonoma. Originally the railroad transported lumber, dairy products, oysters, and other goods from the fertile lands of West Marin. Later the railroad began transporting passengers. The tracks went directly alongside the Lagunitas Creek, and the old railroad right-of-way can be found on the other side of the red-colored Inkwells Bridge from Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.
During the 1870's and 80's, tourists rode this train from San Francisco to a hotel resort and campgrounds in what is now Samuel P. Taylor State Park.
In 1974 the county purchased the rail line from Lagunitas to Tocaloma for trail use. There are extensive trails all over the area, and the 2004 construction of the Inkwells Bridge provided a missing link in the Bay Area Ridge Trail. The Bay Area Ridge Trail is a 500-mile continuing trail that circles the Bay Area (sections already exist in the Headlands and on Big Rock Ridge). The bridge connects Kent Lake trails with the old railroad grade pathway that runs 8 miles through Samuel P. Taylor to Tocaloma Bridge Road. The Inkwells bridge provides hikers and bicyclists a safe way to explore the beautiful San Geronimo Valley away from street traffic.
The bridge also serves an important infrastructural purpose: it has two 36" water pipes that carry water from Kent Lake and the Nicasio Reservoir to the water treatment plant providing drinking water to north-central Marin.
Why I Love It
The Inkwells are the perfect compromise when it's a warm, sunny day and you NEED to go swimming and be outside, but you just can't bring yourself to schlep all the way to the beach. They are much closer and just as beautiful. To me, it's a joy that a rock formation and flowing stream can create such a beautiful and fun place. I spread my towel on the rocks, I watch other people laughing and screaming as they jump into the black water. Finally I muster up the courage to jump, too; I feel the refreshing chill of the water and hurry to climb out so I can feel the warm sun drying the beads of water that lace my skin. Sometimes there's a daredevil who jumps off the bridge overhead. It's about a twenty foot jump. I am shocked by their brazenness every time and think to myself how I could never do that! Maybe one day I will, but for now, the Inkwells are a sunlit chamber where people jump, swim, eat, laugh, play, and explore the creeks above and below the two deep pockets of midnight water.
From the San Rafael Transit Center:
Pick up the West Marin Stagecoach North Route 68
Stagecoach Schedule: http://www.marin-stagecoach.org/stageschedules.html
Get off at Lagunitas Road and walk West (the same direction you were going) along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard until you reach Shafter Bridge
There is a little dirt path to the right of the bridge; follow it to the beautiful Inkwells!