What was Old California like 200 years ago? A thousand years ago? Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area are precious gems of the National Park Service. No other public lands contain such scenic cliffs, lush coastal prairies, redwood forests, and beaches along the Pacific Coast with a high diversity of native species and wildlife.
Imagine great herds of Tule elk, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, along with grizzlies and gray wolves roaming an intact ecosystem.
Imagine huge migrations of whales, large populations of sea otters, abundant fisheries and large abalone beds. As well as thriving bird life.
Indigenous people lived here, carefully care-taking the lands and waters for thousands of years.
This was a land of natural abundance, almost forgotten now.
We need to remember.
Point Reyes National Seashore is an amazing and unique place where herds of Tule elk still roam here, along with bobcats, badgers, and coyotes. Harbor seals, elephant seals, and whales can be viewed from the cliffs and beaches. Bird diversity is high, and salmon still swim up from the sea to spawn in streams.
Point Reyes National Seashore can provide a rare glimpse of the legacy of California abundance of wildlife, fish, and Indigenous care-taking of the land and waters. We need to preserve it and restore it.
This Pacific Coast region could be the Yellowstone of California if we, the public, push for it. This is public land, after all.
San Francisco coastal prairie as it may have appeared 1,000 years ago, looking eastwards across Mission Bay towards the East Bay. Point Reyes National Seashore might have looked like this too. Oil painting by Laura Cunningham.
This oil painting by Laura Cunningham depicts a grizzly mother and cubs feasting on coho salmon on Lagunitas Creek in Marin County, California, 500 years ago. You can still observe these coho salmon running up Lagunitas Creek during rainy winters, if you are lucky. See National Park Service >>here and Turtle Island Restoraion Network >>here.
Tule elk, antelope, and mule deer were light on the land, and helped shape native plant communities on the Seashore in ways we are still learning about.
Yes, Pronghorn antelope were sighted in the 1800s on what is now the Seashore--they are native here but long ago were hunted out, like the elk, during market-hunting to supply meat during the Gold Rush, European expansion, and livestock ranching across the region.
Vast herds of Tule elk and pronghorn antelope roamed California prior to the Gold Rush. This oil painting by Laura Cunningham depicts the Sacramento Valley as it might have appeared before European settlement in a valley oak savanna. Similar scenes would have been common on Point Reyes National Seashore back in time.
Above is a reconstruction of an Indigenous village from an archaeological site, at what is now Market Street in downtown San Francisco, on the edge of Mission Bay. Oil painting by Laura Cunningham, working with archaeologists who discovered the site. This is a glimpse into the lives of Indigenous peoples who lived in the Bay Area for thousands of years and managed the landscapes in advanced and complex ways that we need to learn from.