I had lived in the Bay Area for 22 years before I got around to visiting Henry W. Coe State Park, southeast of San Jose. Eventually my curiosity about that very large block of green on the map (it’s the largest state park in Northern California) moved me to brave South Bay traffic and head […]
A walk at Lawson’s Landing is a step back into simpler times, when families returned to the same spot every summer, and nobody worried too much about building permits and planning boards. The Lawson family originally bought land at the mouth of Tomales Bay for grazing in 1928, but their bread and butter since 1957 […]
Though named for legendary conservationist John Muir, Muir Woods National Monument is really the legacy of William Kent, a wealthy landowner and politician. His gift to the nation 100 years ago of this redwood-lined valley in southwestern Marin, containing the last significant old-growth stands in the county, meant that millions of visitors from around the region and the world would get to witness these magnificent trees. The park's anniversary caps a remarkable century of conservation in the Bay Area.
Archive | History
Intrepid naturalist Jack Laws finds a fluke of nature in six not-so-easy steps.
At the mouth of Tomales Bay, sand dunes and seasonal wetlands coexist uneasily with California's largest coastal campground. The dunes at Lawson's Landing, home to rare butterflies and plants like the dune tansy, are among the few left of a once-common coastal habitat that could be restored and maintained as a healthy, functioning ecosystem. But can that be accomplished without driving out the family-run camping operation at the dunes that, since 1957, has been an affordable summer getaway for thousands of visitors?
Geology | History | Wildlife
Discover rare rocks, distant stars, beautiful wildflowers, and a bit of California history all at one small state park south of San Juan Bautista.
Solstice is nigh, the tide is high, the full moon illuminates the midnight beach, and before us, thousands of glimmering fish wiggle out of the surf to spawn in the sand. In Southern California beach culture, the annual return of grunion to spawn on the highest tides of the late spring and early summer are […]
The Bay | Wildlife
Q: Last October, while hiking on Mount Tamalpais, near Laurel Dell, I saw numerous swarms of dragonflies. Could you tell me more about this phenomenon? Is it seasonal? Or triggered by weather or courtship? [Khiem, San Jose] A: Those dragonflies were most likely congregating to hunt, catch, and eat abundant insects that were also swarming. […]
Ask the Naturalist | Wildlife
The peaceful hills of Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve weren't always so: One hundred twenty years ago, you'd have found bustling towns full of miners and their families and, nearby, the mine works and railroads that carried out tons of coal and sand, feeding the booming industries of Northern California. Today, the park offers grand vistas, abundant wildflowers, and a mine tour that gives an illuminating view of both the work of the miners and the geological history that brought them here and shaped the aboveground landscape.
Botany | Geology
During the 2004-2005 winter salmon spawning season in Redwood Creek, which passes through Muir Woods National Monument before reaching the ocean at Muir Beach, scientists and volunteers with the Coho and Steelhead Monitoring Program counted 93 coho salmon redds (nests) and 171 returning coho adults. That was the highest number on record since surveys began […]
Driving east on Highway 4 toward Pittsburg, I notice the man-made dirt bunkers on the right that look like giant ground squirrel burrows. The bunkers and surrounding grasslands are part of the 5,100-acre upland portion of the Concord Naval Weapons Station that will soon be converted for public use. The navy is keeping the 7,630 […]
While development plans for the weapons station are being honed, shaped, and scrutinized, innovative thinkers and planners are crossing the Bay and the world’s oceans to convene in San Francisco during Earth Week, April 22 to 26, for the Ecocity World Summit 2008. Richard Register, founder and current president of Ecocity Builders in Oakland, convened […]
The scientists and volunteers with the Coho and Steelhead Monitoring Program don’t yet have to deal with New Zealand mud snails. Barely larger than a grain of rice, this snail from Down Under has invaded water bodies all over the West, and it’s a nightmare for trout, salmon, or steelhead—and for people trying to restore […]
The Bay | Wildlife
In 1953, Sada Coe gave her family ranch to the public, with the stipulation that it become parkland and that it be named after her father, Henry W. Coe. Several years later, she reiterated her passion for sharing the land by funding a new visitor center there. All that was done decades ago. But now […]
Sepal, stigma, stamen, style; pollen, pistil, petal. Say what?! Like all scientists, botanists have a specialized language for talking about the things they study, in this case, flowers. Next time you're out hiking, take a few minutes to look closely at a wildflower and you can discover these fascinating, strangely named parts for yourself.
Not long after the cargo ship Cosco Busan ran into the Bay Bridge last November, it was clear that the resulting spill was only the beginning of a much longer story. Volunteers flocked to shoreline parks and beaches, hoping to help. Most of them found that was no simple matter. The highly toxic oil posed […]
Pollution | The Bay | Wildlife