Human History

Human settlement in the San Francisco Bay Area dates back 7,000 years to early Native American settlements. Today, the region is a teeming metropolis of 6 million people that collectively challenge the health of the region’s ecosystems. How it got this way — from Spanish acquisition to the Gold Rush boom and on to contemporary battles over land development — is a story that prompts a deeper understanding of our place in the landscape.

Latest from Human History

School of Rock

July 01, 2010 by Erik Vance

Berkeley native Erik Vance first encountered the rocks of the East Bay hills as a teenager looking for excitement. For a century, geologists at UC Berkeley have used them to teach geologic mapping, in the process unraveling the complex geology of our hills. And for decades pioneering rock climbers learned techniques here that they took with them to the Sierra and beyond.

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The Once and Future Delta

April 01, 2010 by John Hart

About the only thing people agree on about the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta–the subject of countless white papers, editorials, and political debates–is that it’s in a heap of trouble. But this 1,000-square-mile patchwork of islands, sloughs, wetlands, and farmlands is also a rich and complex–if highly altered–ecosystem at the core of the San Francisco Estuary. Here we take a look behind today’s news to understand what the Delta once was, how it has been changed, and what it might become . . . with a lot of help from its friends.

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California Indians and Their Environment: An Introduction

December 11, 2009 by Alan Kaplan

California Natural History Guide No. 96, by Kent G. Lightfoot and Otis Parrish, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2009. $19.95.

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The Lungs of the City

October 01, 2009 by Richard A. Walker

In 1934, local voters created the East Bay Regional Park District, the nation’s largest regional park district. Today, as the district celebrates its 75th anniversary, challenges abound: Sea level rise threatens shoreline parks, the recession and budget crises affect park operations, and a growing human population puts increasing pressure on open space. Nevertheless, the district continues to thrive, with strong public support for land purchases and an unsurpassed combination of diverse wildlife habitats and accessible parks that attract millions of visitors every year.

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Return to Devil’s Gulch

July 01, 2009 by Darla Hillard

Memories of the 1930s in what is now Samuel P. Taylor State Park.

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A Refuge in the Harbor

April 01, 2009 by Joe Eaton

Within view of Richmond, Brooks Island today is a haven for nesting terns. That’s just its latest incarnation. A short paddle across the harbor to this island refuge takes you back centuries and “away from it all.”

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Out of the Blue

January 01, 2009 by Carolyn J. Strange

This massive South Bay preserve, which is still being assembled, forms a critical link in the chain of protected landscapes in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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Book Review: Ranches and Rolling Hills

October 01, 2008 by Sue Rosenthal

Ranches & Rolling Hills: Art of West Marin–A Land in Trust, by Elisabeth Ptak and the Marin Agricultural Land Trust,

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Fall of the Buckeye Ball

October 01, 2008 by Joe Eaton

The dramatic fall silhouette of the California buckeye shows off its giant seeds, that largest of any of our native plants.

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Reaping the Harvest

October 01, 2008 by Joan Hamilton

It’s easy to forget how much of the Bay Area was once a working landscape. Row crops, orchards, and pastures held sway in places now covered by freeways and houses. But a surprising amount of that working land endures in our parks and preserves. In the East Bay, ranchers still run cattle on thousands of acres of land, both public and private. And in a few places, thanks to the East Bay Regional Park District, kids and adults can learn firsthand about skills people once took for granted: how to plant a seed, plow a field, grind grain into flour, or spin wool into yarn.

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