Two hundred fifty years ago, the estuary was the center of an almost unimaginably different landscape, the home of about ten thousand people living in a complex, subtle and remarkably stable Stone Age culture. Native people dwelled along Pinole and Refugio Creeks for thousands of years.
The Carquinez Strait marked the northern extent of territory occupied by natives in a cultural grouping later named Ohlone. The Ohlone comprised about forty territorial groups, or tribelets, each distinguished by language and culture. The Karkin tribelet, and perhaps the Huchiun tribelet, occupied the lands around the Carquinez, encompassing the adjacent valleys of Refugio and Pinole creeks.
During the time of the Ohlone, the Bay was much larger, ringed with vast marshes of pickleweed, cordgrass and tule, and teeming with wildlife. The Ohlone lived in permanent upland villages and temporary camps along the shore. One of those camps, a little village of tule huts, stood at the mouth of Pinole Creek.