The Port of Redwood City is the only deep-water port in South San Francisco Bay. Located strategically between the Port of San Francisco and California's Silicon Valley, the Port of Redwood City is the fastest-growing "small bulk" port in California, specializing in dry bulk, neo-bulk, and specialized cargoes.
About 40 kilometers south of San Francisco Bay on the mouth of Redwood Creek, the Port of Redwood City is the county seat of San Mateo County. It was part of the Rancho de las Pulgas, a 14-thousand hectare tract of land granted to Jose Dario Arguello by the Spanish King in 1795. In 2000, over 75 thousand people lived in the Port of Redwood City.
The area of the Port of Redwood City was once inhabited by the Ohlone Indians before it became part of the Rancho de las Pulgas. It was used as a port that supported the industries of ship-building, lumber, and tanning.
In 1850, settlers discovered Redwood Creek, a deep-water channel running inland off the San Francisco Bay. Lumber companies used the creek to ship logs and wood from California's redwood forests to San Francisco. The Port of Redwood City soon became well-known for its convenient and relatively inexpensive port.
Planned in 1854 by Simon M. Mezes who called it Mezesville, the town was named Redwood City in 1867 for its busy redwood timber business, and it was used as a lumber-shipping basin.
With deep-water harbor facilities, the Port of Redwood City has grown with development of the San Francisco Bay area. It is for the most part a commercial and residential community, but the Port of Redwood City has a small industrial base and a growing high-tech sector.
The first schooner built in the Port of Redwood City set out in 1851, and the ship-building industry was busy through the 1880s. The last wooden ship, the Perseverance, was launched in 1883.
In 1882, the US Army Corps of Engineers recommended that a two-meter channel be dredged for the Port of Redwood City. The 15-meter wide channel was completed in 1889. By 1911, the Corps had expanded the channel width to over 45 meters. In 1931, a joint effort of the federal government and local interests deepened the channel to 15 meters and widened it to 61 meters over a length of four-thousand meters.
Over the time as the channel was developed and expanded, many businesses were attracted to the Port of Redwood City. New wharves and businesses lined the length of Redwood Creek, and commercial shipping occupied three main wharves handling grains, livestock, and shingles in addition to cargoes of lumber.
In 1912, the Redwood City Harbor Company was founded by business and civic leaders, but the Port of Redwood City's growth was hampered by competition from railroads and roads. When the Pacific-Portland Cement Company located in the Port of Redwood City in 1924, shipping activity began to increase dramatically.In 1936, the residents of Redwood City approved a city charter change that created a Port Department that would operate and manage the development of the Port of Redwood City. The channels were dredged, and larger piers were built. The first cargo ship arrived in 1937, and the Port of Redwood City has been independent and profitable since then. The Port is still governed by the City Charter.