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.