How has California’s landscape changed? What did now-familiar places look like during prior centuries? What can the past teach us about designing future landscapes? The Napa Valley Historical Ecology Atlas explores these questions by taking readers on a dazzling visual tour of Napa Valley from the early 1800s onward—a forgotten land of brilliant wildflower fields, lush wetlands, and grand oak savannas. Robin Grossinger weaves together rarely-seen historical maps, travelers’s accounts, photographs, and paintings to reconstruct early Napa Valley and document its physical transformation over the past two centuries. The Atlas provides a fascinating new perspective on this iconic landscape, showing the natural heritage that has enabled the agricultural success of the region today. The innovative research of Grossinger and his historical ecology team allows us to visualize the past in unprecedented detail, improving our understanding of the living landscapes we inhabit and suggesting strategies to increase their health and resilience in the future.
“This engaging book has much to recommend it. Grossinger’s clear prose is accessible for general readers, while endnotes reference further resources and academic contexts. . . . A rich source of information. . . . It conveys the beauty and interest of this area, making it great background reading on the Napa Valley.”—David Strauch, University of Hawai’i Economic Botany
“Working with a long list of collaborators, Grossinger unearthed maps, photos, surveys, old postcards and other information that added insight into how Napa has changed over time.”—Jeanne Carstensen Bay Citizen
“Welcome to the ecodetectives, the landscape archeologists, here to show us what was once in one particular valley and how places in general change and how historical maps and photographs can set your imagination on fire and tell you where you are more deeply than anything else. Every time I visit the Estuary Institute, Robin and cartographer Ruth are there presiding over tables layered thick with big reproductions of old maps and eager to show more maps on their computers: visiting them at work is time travel, cartographic chatauqua, art exhibition, and ecological epiphany, and it's wonderful all that is finally packed into a book, and a beautiful book at that.”—Rebecca Solnit, author of Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas
and Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics
"Elk, grizzly, salmon, and Napa? Robin Grossinger and colleagues from the San Francisco Estuary Institute are the premier poet-scientists of the California landscape. Here they have created a beautiful, thoughtful, transformative look at the original ecology of the Napa Valley. If you are interested in sustainability, terroir,
or the future of California, I would highly recommend this book." – Eric W. Sanderson, author of Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York
"This wonderful atlas is like none other. It takes you on a trip back through time and space, peeling away layer after layer of Napa Valley history. It gets under the skin of this enchanting place and then under yours. Once you learn to read the signposts of the past, you'll never look at the landscape of Napa—or anyplace else—the same way again. Grossinger and Askevold elevate local geography to a new plane of scientific precision, historical reconstruction, and elegant imagery. They even sketch a set of tours for revisiting Napa country on your own and practical lessons on how this precious landscape can be better managed in the future by keeping an eye on the past." – Richard Walker, author of The Country in the City: The Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area