Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Relic from the Gold Rush Space Program

A couple years ago I wrote about the Mannahatta project, an effort to reconstruct the pre-colonial ecosystems that existed on Manhattan Island, and the gorgeous computer-generated birds-eye-views that it produced.

Now, a Californian geographer named Mark Clark has made a similar speculative map, showing most of California as it might have looked from space in 1850 (via the Strange Maps blog):

What's most striking to me is how edenic the Central Valley looks with its original rivers and marshes streaming snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada into the lush swirl of marshes in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta in the north, or, in the south, into the long-lost Tulare Lake, once the largest freshwater body west of the Great Lakes.

Now, the same landscape is all massive monoculture farm fields spotted with dusty, heat-blasted cities like Bakersfield and Fresno. Even more remarkable is that most of the transformation happened within a single generation during the early 20th century. Why aren't there more Hollywood blockbusters about this story?

And speaking of native Californian hydrology, a friend recently turned me onto the L.A. Creek Freak blog, which is all about trying to restore watersheds and their ecological functions in the Los Angeles metro area. I'm actually planning a visit to southern California early this summer — if any Californian readers want to leave tourism suggestions in the comments, or just say "hello," it would make my day.


Eli said...

Here in CA, snowpack in the Sierras (which provides most of the water we use throughout the year) is at about a third of historical averages for this date. (see: http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cdecapp/snowapp/sweq.action)
This could be a pretty dire summer without a few more spring storms.

In terms of related places to visit in Southern California, the CA department of water resources runs a pretty extensive information center at a rest-stop off of I-5 near Pyramid Lake above LA. It gets very few visitors and I'm sure most people feel like it's an unbelievably boring place, but I thought it was pretty cool

Also, somewhat less relatedly, the Museum of Jurassic Technology (www.mjt.org) is absolutely mandatory to visit if you've never been before.

JKG said...

They made "Chinatown." It's sorta about this. Kinda.

C Neal said...

^ Exactly what I'm saying. There should be more Chinatown plots, please. We haven't had any in what, 35 years?

The Ameliorator said...