Human settlement in the San Francisco Bay Area dates back 10,000 years to early Native American settlements. Today, the region is a teeming metropolis of 7 million people that collectively challenge the health of the region's ecosystems. How it got this way is a story that prompts a deeper understanding of our place in the landscape.

Rooted in History

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Once a major crossroads for the Coast Miwok, and briefly a home for the Grateful Dead, Rancho Olompali now sits quietly beside Highway 101 north of Novato. But follow its trails and you’ll hear the echoes of the voices of those who came before.

Whaling from San Francisco Bay

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Though whales were never hunted in San Francisco Bay itself, the whaling industry had a long presence here. Beginning in the 1830s, whaling ships of British and New England–based fleets wintered in San Francisco Bay. A hundred ships or more … Read more

A Redwood Century at Big Basin

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At the dawn of the 20th century, a number of Peninsula residents—including photographer Andrew Hill and lawyer Delphin Delmas—watched in horror as loggers cut their way into groves of ancient redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Determined to preserve these Titanic offsprings of Nature for future generations, these pioneering citizens banded together to lobby for the creation of California’s first state park—Big Basin.

Postcards from Pescadero

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True, there was no e-mail, snail mail, or even Pony Express, but somehow postcards from intrepid explorers of the San Mateo coast in days of yore have reached our mailbox. Take a unique trip through time and discover how the beach and marsh at Pescadero came to be the treasures we love to visit today.

Butterflies and Bulldozers on an Island of Time

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San Bruno Mountain rises along the southern border of San Francisco, remnant of an ecosystem that once covered much of this peninsula. The mountain provides a tenuous refuge for some of the rare plants and endangered butterflies that have lost much of their former habitat. And it beckons to people who want a taste of the San Francisco peninsula as it was before Europeans arrived.

Undercover San Francisco

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Have you ever wondered what some familiar spots in San Francisco looked like 300 years ago? Environmental artist Mark Brest van Kempen did, so he went back in time and took some pictures.

From the Bottom Up

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It’s small, it’s restless, and it changes sex halfway through its life. Plus, the humble bay shrimp occupies a crucial niche in the complex food web of San Francisco Bay. It once played a significant role in the economy and culture of the local Chinese community. Today, both the shrimp and those who fish for it are still hanging on, but it hasn’t been easy.

Legacy of the Red Ore

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Numerous animals make their homes in burrows in the hills of this Santa Clara County park, but none dig as deep as the miners who hauled mercury-laden ore out of the ground for 125 years.