A collaborative effort to learn the history of the local landscape

What did the Valley look like in the year 1800? Where were the first vineyards? Which creeks had salmon? Where were the best fishing holes? How has the landscape changed, and what can it teach us?

Friends of the Napa River is working with the San Francisco Estuary Insitute to develop a Historical Ecology Project on the Napa River Watershed. A Historical Ecology Project is an intensive, broadly-based effort to recover, organize, and interpret diverse information about the early local landscape and how it has changed. Through such a project, local knowledge about the land is recovered and preserved for future generations.

Since conditions have changed so rapidly during the past two centuries, historical research is necessary to explain current conditions of local streams, forests, wetlands, and other habitats, and their ability to support people and wildlife. Despite the dramatic changes, it is generally possible to learn the original details of the native landscape, such as which creeks had salmon, how wide the river corridor was, which types of vegetation dominated where, and other important information about the natural functions of the landscape. The Project can help the community define and understand the existing environmental challenges and suggest how they might be successfully resolved in the future.

How you can help: If you know of old maps, photographs, written accounts, or have lived in the watershed a long time yourself, we would greatly appreciate your assistance.

Contact: Shari Gardner at the Napa Watershed Historical Ecology Project:

(707) 254-8520 or gardner.shari@gmail.com

The San Francisco Estuary Institute, an independent, non-profit science organization, developed the award-winning Historical Ecology Program to support regional and local environmental planning efforts. SFEI’s regional program started in 1993 and has produced the historical maps of baylands, featured in the Bay Area EcoAtlas.

Anticipated Products: The Project is currently working on a richly illustrated Napa Historical Ecology Atlas. This publication will make the findings of the multi-year Project widely accessible. The Atlas will celebrate the natural heritage of Napa Valley, inspiring both increased stewardship and more accurate conservation planning. Additional products include detailed, large-format maps of the Napa River Watershed, from Mt. St. Helena to the marshlands of San Pablo Bay, showing the landscape prior to European settlement (circa 1800) and an intermediate point circa 1900. Accompanying databases and archives will make all data collected available as public resources.

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