Nature Abounds at This Manmade Park in Silicon Valley

By Karen Gough
Karen Gough
Karen Gough
Karen Gough is a writer and travel enthusiast. She shares her family’s travel tales at TheFootlooseScribbler.com
July 29, 2022 Updated: July 29, 2022

In the midst of Silicon Valley lies a manmade oasis. Shoreline Park in Mountain View, California, provides recreational opportunities for people as well as habitats for wildlife.

Within its 750 acres is an 18-hole championship golf course, a historic house, a 50-acre lake, a boathouse, a children’s playground, two restaurants, a dog park, a kite-flying park, and eight miles of trails linking lawns, fields, and estuaries. There is something for everyone.

Shoreline Park History

Shoreline Park was conceived in 1968 by the city of Mountain View, but it took 15 years to come to fruition.

During that time, the city operated Shoreline as a waste-management plant, accepting landfill from nearby cities. This was not as crazy as it sounds. The city wanted to mitigate potential flooding at Shoreline, so they used landfill to raise the grounds by 15 feet.

Mountain View also began a methane-gas recovery project from Shoreline’s landfill. Scrubbed gas benefited the city and generated income to build the future park. Although the methane-recovery project ended in 1993, the city—using an underground network of pipes—still collects and manages landfill gas. The gas is used to fuel generators, while excess gas is safely incinerated.

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A map of Shoreline Park. (Courtesy of the City of Mountain View Shoreline Park website)

Rengstorff House

Around 1867, Henry Rengstorff built his Victorian-Italianate house in what is now Shoreline Business Park. An immigrant from Germany, Henry worked as a farm laborer, saving enough money to purchase squatter’s rights to land in San Jose and Milpitas.

His expanding landholdings enabled him to become a farmer of both agriculture and cattle. Later, he built a ship landing and warehouses in Mountain View.

In 1979, the city of Mountain View bought the old Rengstorff house for $1.00. They moved it to its present site in 1986. For five years it stood there looking like a perfect haunted house, but in 1991, the city restored it and opened the house to the public.

Due to COVID restrictions, docent-led tours are currently on hold, but the grounds and house are available to rent for special occasions, including weddings.

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The restored family home of Henry Rengstorff. (Courtesy of Karen Gough)

Shoreline Lake

Shoreline Lake is a 50-acre saltwater lake utilized by both man and bird. Water is circulated through the lake by a system that pumps it in from the San Francisco Bay and out to Permanente Creek. As a result, the lake is full of natural life: fish, crabs, vegetation, crustaceans, and mollusks, as well as the birds that feed on them.

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An aerial shot of Shoreline Lake and the surrounding estuaries. Shoreline Lake is the dark blue body of water near the front of the photo. (Courtesy of Karen Gough)

Outside of summer, the lake belongs mostly to the birds. During the summer, however, human water enthusiasts take over.

A handsome boathouse accommodates the Shoreline Aquatic Center, from which people can rent many types of non-motorized watercraft. Bikes, child trailers, and scooters may be rented as well. Classes and camps are offered for sports such as sailing, windsurfing, and even yoga on stand-up paddleboards.

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Early morning at the boathouse on Shoreline Lake. (Courtesy of Karen Gough)

Seasons of Birds

As part of the San Francisco Bay estuary system, Shoreline Lake lies under the Pacific Flyway. The Pacific Flyway is a migratory bird path that stretches 4,000 miles north-south from the Arctic to the west coast of Mexico, and 1,000 miles east-west from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

In order to reach warmer habitats, around a billion birds migrate along this route each spring and fall. Shoreline Lake and its connecting estuaries are a haven for many of these birds.

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Egrets, pelicans, cormorants, and terns join a feeding frenzy on a November morning on Shoreline Lake. (Courtesy of Karen Gough)

Birders eagerly await the arrival of fall/winter migrants. Diving ducks such as Barrow’s and common goldeneye, surf scoters, and buffleheads dive through the water, seeking out crustaceans. Flocks of northern shovelers dabble, straining food with their shovel-like beaks.

The waters around Shoreline fill up with thousands of birds in the winter, but spring sees them off as they seek the plentiful feeding grounds of northern summer habitats.

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A surf scoter captures a prize mussel. (Courtesy of Karen Gough)

Yet the arrival of spring brings other migrants. Barn and cliff swallows hunt insects over the fields and ponds, build nests in overhangs, and flock to chase away hunting harrier hawks. Forster’s terns and black skimmers nest on the small island within Shoreline Lake, and in summer, the green lawns of Shoreline provide grazing areas for families of Canadian geese.

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A black skimmer hunts for food by skimming its beak along the water’s surface. (Courtesy of Karen Gough)
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Fuzzy yellow Canadian goslings stay close together at Shoreline Park. (Courtesy of Karen Gough)

Hiking

Shoreline Park is connected to a wider network of trails such as the Stevens Creek Trail, Permanente Creek Trail, and Bay Loop Trail.

A favorite trail for walkers is the Adobe Creek Loop Trail, which lies to the left beyond Shoreline Lake. The 5.5-mile trail takes you between Adobe Creek on the left and Charleston Slough on the right, all the way out to Byxbee Park in the Palo Alto Baylands. You can go out and back or finish the loop as it runs along Matadero Creek, parallels Highway 101 and the Bayshore Road for three quarters of a mile, and then returns to Adobe Creek and Shoreline Lake.

Walkers, runners, and bikers share the trail with birders and photographers.

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A couple walks along the Adobe Creek Loop Trail with the Charleston Slough on the right. (Courtesy of Karen Gough)
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American white pelicans preen on the bank of Adobe Creek. (Courtesy of Karen Gough)

Restaurants and More

One need not go hungry at Shoreline Park. Picnickers of course are welcome, but there are also two restaurants to choose from: Michaels At Shoreline and the American Bistro. Both offer breakfast and lunch as well as nice views of the golf course or lake, seven days a week.

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People enjoy the walking and biking path alongside Shoreline Lake. (Courtesy of Karen Gough)

Children can dig in the sand or climb at a boat-structured playground next to the lake. The playground is kept clean by park maintenance personnel.

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A boat-like play structure captures the imagination at Shoreline Park. (Courtesy of Karen Gough)

Just inside the entrance and to the right of Shoreline Park lies the kite-flying lot. There is usually a good breeze here, making this a popular place for people to fly both basic and stunt kites. The lot has its own parking area, and there are benches around the perimeter.

A dog park is located right before the entrance to Shoreline Park. Otherwise, dogs are not allowed in Shoreline.

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A pair of eared grebes court on Shoreline Lake. (Courtesy of Karen Gough)

For more information about Shoreline Park, please visit their website at www.mountainview.gov/depts/cs/shoreline.

Karen Gough
Karen Gough is a writer and travel enthusiast. She shares her family’s travel tales at TheFootlooseScribbler.com