Bay Nature magazineOctober-December 2003


Book Review: San Francisco Bay: Portrait of an Estuary

October 1, 2003

by John Hart (text) and David Sanger (photography), University of California Press, 2003, 212 pages, $34.95 (

Book, SF Bay Estuary

Early European explorers sailed right past the mouth of the San Francisco Bay; blinded by sun or fog, or perhaps the monotony of a thousand miles of mountainous coastline, they missed what John Hart calls “the chink in the coastal armor.”

Behind that chink lies one of the largest estuaries in the world. Today, it is also one of the most disturbed, constrained by dwindling freshwater inflows and suffering wave after wave of biological invasion. In San Francisco Bay: Portrait of an Estuary, environmental author (and Bay Nature writer) John Hart and photographer David Sanger take the reader on a nar-rative and visual tour that is both evocative and instructive. Sanger’s lush photography casts familiar views in new light and reveals new Bay treasures, nearby but generally unseen. The accompanying text tells stories of the Bay’s human and natural history that will take even longtime residents by surprise. With the gaze of a naturalist and a historian, Hart looks at the many habitats encompassed within the estuary, and at the many roles, past and present, played by the Bay and Delta: home to several native tribes, international port, fishing grounds, stopover for migratory birds, and focal point for the first major efforts to protect and restore the local landscape.

Hart and Sanger never lose sight of the fact that our estuary, no matter how impressive, now depends on the dedication and ingenuity of the eight million people who live near its shores. “Our human capacity to create problems—for ourselves and just about everything else that lives—is awesome,” Hart writes. “So is our capacity to solve those problems.” With this book, Hart and Sanger make us more determined to find those solutions for the Bay.

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