California Central Valley

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This snippet has been taken from “Wild California Vanishing Lands, Vanishing Wildlife” by “Raymond F. Dasmann”. California Central Valley is 40 to 60 miles wide and stretches approximately 450 miles from north-northwest to south-southeast, inland from and parallel to the Pacific Ocean coast which is discussed at “Tree Trimming Oakland CA

On a hot summer day the floor of the central valley is a shimmering mirage. Neither the Sierra Nevada to the east nor the coast range to the west can be clearly perceived through the haze. Rich fields stretching for miles across the valley floor are the veritable breadbasket of California agriculture. In the southern San Joaquin the dominant crop is cotton; in the Sacramento to the north, rice is dominant. But interspersed are varied plantings, including corn, tomatoes, sugar beets, wheat, barley, vineyards, and many kinds of orchards. Most of these crops require irrigation, so the fields are bordered by a complex network of ditches and channels that draw water from the streams flowing as needed to the thirsty tilled soils. The summer haze in the valley derives largely from evaporating irrigation water.

California Central Valley
California Central Valley

No region of California has been so completely altered form its original condition as the central valley. In its own way it is an interesting place now, but the pristine landscape must have been strikingly beautiful, according to the accounts of many early visitors. Among these, Fremont was perhaps the most lyrical and the most precise in his description of the country in 1844. He led and exploratory military expedition that travelled south from Oregon to the Truckee River, thence wandering rather aimlessly over the sierra in midwinter and finally descending the American river to Sutters fort, east of Sacramento. Doubtless the hardship of the mountain crossing enhanced the charm of the valley in springtime, but the place certainly made an impression on Fremont. He speaks glowingly of oak woodland or savannah, with little bands of deer seen under the oaks among wild flowers and grasses: “from the upland we descended into broad groves on the river, consisting of the evergreen [live oak], and a new species of a white-oak [valley oak], with a large tufted top. And three to six feet in diameter. Among these was  no brushwood; and the grassy surface gave to it the appearance of parks in an old-settled country we hurried on, the valley being gay with flowers and some of the banks being absolutely golden with the California poppy.”

California Central Valley
California Central Valley

After a period of recovery and reoutfitting at Sutters, Fremont led his party south, skirting the foothills of the sierra and crossing in turn the Cosumnes, Mukelemnes[sic], Calaveras, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers, describing repeatedly the riparian woodland that paralleled each stream. (Virtually none of this riparian vegetation is left today.) The plains became progressively more arid and sandy as the party proceeded southward, and the filaree (Erodium), which Fremont noted grew two to three feet high in moist sites, was only two to three valley. The great interior Tulare Lake was full to overflowing in 1844, and the party had to detour to the east of it. From various ponds and water bodies the party disturbed “multitudes of wild fowl, principally geese.” Likewise, elk were abundant in the “tulares” (bulrushes), and antelope were seen daily on the open plains. Surprisingly, wild horses Joaquin River. They derived, apparently, from stock escaping the early Spanish missions. Such was the original scene in central California as observed by and appreciative traveller.

At an earlier date, the Spanish had established their missions and haciendas along the California coast, and although their cattle and horses proliferated and spread to the valley, neither the friars not the vaqueros made any attempt to settle far inland from the cool coast. Mountain men in quest of beaver were the first Caucasians to exploit the valley riches. Jedediah Smith, Alexander McLeod, peter Ogden, and john work of  beaver and otter in the central valley become known, and  parties of  British,  Russian, French Canadian, and American trappers competed to skim the rich harvest.

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