Sea Lions at Pier 39 Fisherman’s Wharf

The Loma Prieta earthquake in October 1989 was a very serious disaster that caused hardship and heartbreak for many Bay Area residents. News footage broadcast all over the world showed collapsed freeways, wrecked buildings and other damage inside San Francisco and the surrounding area. Curiously, this seismic event resulted in a most unexpected phenomenon: the arrival of hundreds of sea lions to the K-Dock on Pier 39 on San Francisco’s Waterfront. These marine mammals began arriving in January 1990 and they just kept coming. Initially, their arrival created quite an upset for Pier 39 Marina tenants, as they blocked access to the pier and prevented fishermen and pleasure boaters from getting their vessels in and out of the pier. After consulting with experts at The Marine Mammal Center about how to deal with the new arrivals, the tenants decided to let the sea lions stay and the anniversary of their arrival has become an annual event.

Today, visitors can see sea lions at Pier 39 almost every day. As the seasons change and prey availability in San Francisco Bay waxes and wanes, so do their numbers, but the best time to see the most of these impressive creatures is January. This annual event is usually held the third weekend of January from Friday through Monday. The event is free and visitors get a rare opportunity to get a close look at these animals lolling and basking on K-Dock. Visitors attending the Anniversary can ask questions and learn more about these animals from experts at The Marine Mammal Center and the Aquarium of the Bay, who work with these animals on a daily basis and can interpret their behavior.

If you’d like to check out the Anniversary this year, simply head down to Pier 39 and begin walking around. It’s a fun atmosphere with food and drink vendors, street performers, attractions like the Aquarium of the Bay and many other cool things to see and do. Best of all, you only have to spend what you care to on food, drinks and souvenirs. Watching, snapping pictures and listening to the din of barking sea lions is free! For a little vicarious viewing, you can check out the live webcam at Parking is available near Pier 39, but you’re much better off walking or taking mass transportation, as the parking rates are a bit steep. For more information about this and other events on Pier 39, visit