A Visit to One of San Francisco's Most Delightful Secrets
the eastern edge of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in
San Francisco, a tiny spit of land juts into the bay. If you walk
out to the end, you can see San Francisco's skyline on one side
and the Golden Gate Bridge on the other.
Update: Here are two
more wave organs, one in Zadar, Croatia and
the other in Blackpool, UK.
7/27/03 Update: Robert & Lorna Hale from Gilbert, Arizona, recently visited the Wave Organ and report:
Editor's Note: We suspect that the pipes have become clogged with sand, crabs, and other ocean-borne debris. We've also heard that graffiti and litter is sometimes a problem. The original creator no longer lives in San Francisco, and it's possible that no one is actively maintaining the Wave Organ. But even if the pipes are no longer producing the eerie music, the jetty affords unparalleled views of San Francisco Bay and a neat spot for an urban picnic.
9/14/03 Update: In late August, we received an e-mail message from C.M., a reader on the east coast who was planning a trip to San Francisco. After reading the 7-27 update, C.M. telephoned the Exploratorium and was told that the pipes had been "Roto-Rootered" and the Wave Organ's listening stations were working fine. C.M. and a friend visited the Wave Organ the next week and offered the following field report:
Editor's Note: Listening to a performance at the Wave Organ is an experience in subtlety, no startling crescendos of Bach-like "organ" music but nonetheless a magical experience not to be missed. There is another little-known musical treat awaiting visitors in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The next time you are in that fair city, go to Point State Park and proceed to the SW corner (just beyond Ft. Pitt Museum) to a small, concrete amphitheatre located directly under the interchange of I-376 and I-279. The supports for the bridge include large wooden timbers that resonate with booming tones when vehicle traffic passes overhead. It is like listening to the largest marimba you could ever imagine. The range of sounds is remarkably diverse and is one of our all-time favorite places to eat lunch and enjoy free "musical" entertainment.
Update 11/23/03: Just thought I would add to the notes on the Wave Organ: I visited friends in San Francisco in September 2003. I found a listing for the Wave Organ in a Time Out guide, but could find no one in the city who had even heard of it! I forced a friend to drive us to past the yacht clubs, and walk to the end of the tiny inlet. The wave organ was definitely one of my favourite experiences in San Fran. It is not a trip for those expecting signs telling you it is the ideal picture-taking spot or souvenir hunters...it is a beautiful, subtle experience. Not only is the view amazing, the sounds produced by the organ range from subtly soothing to downright rude! It is now a fave spot for my friends in San Fran, and I would recommend it to any slightly loner soul who can enjoy environmental art, or simply would like a quiet place to enjoy the sea.
Madeline Brown, London
I had hoped to visit the Exploratorium the Monday after Thanksgiving, which didn't work out because it's closed on Mondays. Realizing that the Wave Organ was an easy walk from the Exploratorium's home in the Palace of Fine Arts, I headed out past the yacht clubs to check it out.
It was a beautifully clear, crisp day, and I wasn't the only person enjoying the weather and the view. My last visit to the Wave Organ was at dawn, and the tide was high. This time, it was late afternoon, and tide was extremely low. The "listening stations" don't function as well at low tide, but I found one that was performing perfectly.
I was happy to see no trash, no graffiti, and to learn that afternoon is a wonderful time to visit the Wave Organ. The views of Alcatraz Island and the city were spectacular as the sun went down.