Marin County is a county located in the North San Francisco Bay Area of the State of California, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco County. As of 2010, its population was about 252,400. Its county seat is San Rafael and its largest employer is the county government. Marin County is well known for its natural beauty, liberal politics, and affluence. In May 2009, Marin County had the fifth highest income per capita in the United States at about $91,480. The county is governed the Marin County Board of Supervisors.
San Quentin Prison is located in the county, as is Skywalker Ranch. Autodesk, the publisher of AutoCAD, is also located there, as well as numerous other high-tech companies. The headquarters of film and media company Lucasfilm Ltd., previously based in San Rafael, have moved to the Presidio of San Francisco.
The Marin County Civic Center was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and draws thousands of visitors a year to guided tours of its arch and atrium design. In 1994, a new county jail facility was embedded into the hillside nearby.
America's oldest cross country running event, the Dipsea Race, takes place annually in Marin County, attracting thousands of athletes. Mountain biking was invented on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais in Marin.
Marin County is one of the original 27 counties of California, created February 18, 1850, following adoption of the California Constitution of 1849 and just months before the state was admitted to the Union.
The Coast Miwok Indians were hunters and gatherers whose ancestors had occupied the area for thousands of years. About 600 village sites have been identified in the county. The Coast Miwok numbered in the thousands. Today there are few left, and even fewer with any knowledge of their Coast Miwok lineage. Efforts are being made so that they are not forgotten.
The English explorer and privateer, Francis Drake and the crew of the Golden Hind was thought to have landed on the Marin coast in 1579 claiming the land as Nova Albion. A bronze plaque inscribed with Drake's claim to the new lands, fitting the description in Drake's own account, was discovered in 1933. This so-called Drake's Plate of Brass was revealed as a hoax in 2003.
In 1595 Sebastian Cermeno lost his ship, the San Agustin, while exploring the Marin Coast. The Spanish explorer Vizcaíno landed about twenty years after Drake in what is now called Drakes Bay. However the first Spanish settlement in Marin was not established until 1817 when Mission San Rafael Arcángel was founded partly in response to the Russian-built Fort Ross to the north in what is now Sonoma County.
Mission San Rafael Arcángel was founded in what is now downtown San Rafael as the 20th Spanish mission in the colonial Mexican province of Alta California by four priests, Father Narciso Duran from Mission San Jose, Father Abella from Mission San Francisco de Asís, Father Gil y Taboada and Father Mariano Payeras, the President of the Missions, on December 14, 1817, four years before Mexico gained independence from Spain.