|Credit: Sacramento Bee|
|Great Escapes maps|
|Photo by Phill Stoffer (USGS)|
When the Europeans first arrived, an estimated 500,000 tule elk roamed these regions, but by 1870 they were thought to be extirpated. However, in 1874-1875 a single breeding pair was discovered in the tule marshes of Buena Vista Lake in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Conservation measures were taken to protect the species in the 1970s. Today, the wild population exceeds 4,000.
The arrival of the Spanish in the late 18th century caused the release of cattle and horses on the grasslands of the Central Valley. In the 1830s, Americans attracted by the abundance of Spanish cattle sent ships to California to land men who went ashore to kill the cattle for the hide and tallow trade. In a short time, this trade removed many of the cattle from California, so when the first emigrants arrived from the United States, they hunted the abundant elk and other species in the absence of a livestock industry.The gold rush of 1849 brought in musket hunters, trappers and cattle barons. Twenty-four years later, in 1873, the once great herds were reduced to a single tiny band. By the time elk hunting was banned by the State Legislature in 1873, the tule elk was believed to be extinct. -California cattle baron Henry Miller protected tule elk after a pair were discovered on his ranch in the tule marshes near Buena Vista Lake by game warden A. C. Tibbett in 1874. Miller ordered his men to protect the elk and is credited for the survival of the species. After his death, the huge Miller-Lux ranch was subdivided and the hunting of the elk resumed. The population was reduced to 72 head. By 1895, habitat loss and poaching had reduced the elk population to only 28
Unbelievable, an estimated 500,000 Tule Elk existing throughout a healthy pristine heavily vegetated California Central Valley prior to European arrival and decimated down to 28 individuals be 1895 and all done with weaponry which would be considered primitive by today's sophisticated technological killing standards. Of course it was during this same period that millions of Bison were butchered with the same mentality and weaponry. Never the less, it is the ecology of the native vegetation landscape throughout that Valley from south to north that interests me and the far greater amount of water which once existed throughout the valley. If you drive around today throughout the southern and west end of the valley, it is obvious that there is very little if any water available on the surface. Water there comes from Canals from the eastern part or pumped from deep commercial wells which at present are depleting what vast aquifer reserves there once were. There is simply now not enough moisture any longer falling as rain and filling up the higher elevation reservoirs. One of the keys to the valley's far greater water presence was the link to an area called Buena Vista Lake in Kern County where Bakersfield is the county seat. Here are some stats about this now dried up massive lake bed.
Buena Vista Lake, is a former fresh-water lake now a dry lake in Kern County, California in the Tulare Lake Basin in the southern San Joaquin Valley, California.Buena Vista Lake was the second largest of several similar lakes in the Tulare Lake basin, and was fed by the waters of the Kern River. The Kern River's flow went into Buena Vista Lake southwest through the site Bakersfield via its maindistributary channels or south through the Kern River Slough distributary into Kern Lake and then into Buena Vista Lake via Connecting Slough.In times when Buena Vista Lake overflowed it first backed up into Kern Lake making one large lake. When this larger lake overflowed it flowed out through the Buena Vista Slough and Kern River channel northwest of Buena Vista Lake through tule marshland and Goose Lake, into Tulare Lake.In the mid 20th century, Buena Vista Lake dried up after its tributary river waters were impounded in Isabella Dam and for agricultural irrigation and municipal water uses.
I have actually been to this area. If you drive from Bakersfield along the old abandoned railroad right-of-way which ends up in the oil fields city of Taft CA, it will take you past what is now a vast dried up lake bed. The only way I can described this area to southern Californians is if you've ever seen the large flat flood plain and lake bed called "Mystic Lake". During high rainfall seasons and when the San Jacinto river floods, this lake will actually fill up again, but most often it looks like dry alkali salt flats. Now if for size comparison, Buena Vista Lake bed is as big as the entire San Jacinto/Hemet valleys and may extend a further distance towards Sun City and Moreno Valley. It's huge and as referenced in the above info, was at one time loaded with water from the Kern River. Marshlands and Tule areas extending on and off all the way down stream to the Sacramento Delta. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, there was enough water in the San Joaquin & Kern Rivers to run Steamboat ferries with freight and people at one time all the way to Bakersfield. Cottonwoods, Sycamores, Willows and more would have had extensive forests and great Valley Oak Savannas would have been on higher more elevated locations on the fringes and foothill margins surrounding the valley. Tule Elk and other animals like Pronghorn antelope would have and indeed did maintain such a healthy environment. Given what we know today about the ability of Oaks, Maples and other deciduous trees giving off massive amounts of natural aerosols or VOCs like isoprenes which help create cloud formation (even miles and miles away), we can imagine an even greater influence on all other states climates eastward. With all the vast populations of Tule Elk throughout this wild untouched valley, you can now imagine the vast regular food supply for which the California Condor's soared over from their nesting grounds in the mountains lining both sides of the valley. Sadly, I have the feeling that through the present system, Human intervention will always be needed to provide dead carcasses for these large majestic birds in out of the way isolated protected habitats. There is no real historical precedent from many of these areas that suggest they will ever be truly independent again. Too many negative human stain variables.
Hopefully I'll be able to photograph and explain what happened to Anza Valley and Santa Rosa Mountains climate change when I get my photographs taken this spring. I wish more of the Non-Profits (eco groups involved in saving whatever around the globe) would or could focus more on natural world mechanisms and practical applications and teach others the same. Looking at nature through the lens of Biomimetics would go further than much of the present stirring up of anger. Nothing wrong with being upset at some injustice and believe me, I know the world is defined by injustice. But I recently read something by controversial author Salman Rushie and I actually saw a CNN News interview of him on Sunday where he said this and it made sense.
"People today are encourage and have begun to identify themselves by things they hate rather than those things they love and cherish. Should such people be encouraged ? Should such generations-to-come believe that their hatred towards an entity is more important than someone else's opinion of the same ?"
It actually made perfect sense. I follow some of the environmental movements out around the globe along with countless other News Reports on various social movements and there appears no unity or agreement on anything sometimes. The hatred also takes it's toll on otherwise good people who exhaust themselves emotionally when the situation doesn't change for the better or even gets worse. Maybe a different strategy is needed. But unfortunately from my many years of observation and experience, I have seen many a leader or Guru of a group often keeping people stirred up and on edge even if and when there may even be an improvement. This is clear with many of the present social and political movements. If people actually become content and circumstances settle down, the guys like these loose power and they just seem fade away into the background. I find this with many extreme religious leaders with politicians not far behind. I imagine it could also be true of some eco-movements as well. Anyway, for the moment, to change direction here, I found some pictures and artist's conceptions of what the Central Valley was once like. Maybe for a change, we can view some pleasant pics of Tule Elk in natural habitat followed by some artists conceptions of what wildlife and vegetated habitats may have looked like a long time ago. Look upon the paintings as a positive goal rather than focusing hatred on those responsible for the destruction of these areas.
|photo by wikipedia|
Tule Elk herd at Lake Pillsbury near Hull Mountain, Mendocino National Forest in Lake County, California. Living in the fringes of Foothill Pine , Oak and chaparral, no doubt for cover when not feeding on natives grasslands.
Now the artists pictures of a Valley way of life long gone.
|Picture by Goldtrout|
|Artwork by Laura Cunninghamd 2010|
|Artwork by Laura Cunningham|
This scene has both Tule Elk and Pronghorn Antelope grazing together. Pronghorn's are now extinct in most places of California, but there have been some reintroduction projects.
Wow, all of this has got me nostalgic for something else that use to ring through my memory when I use to travel the Valley. Can you guess what this is ?
You probably don't remember there was an original early version of the theme song ? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pg3HcxYcbog
Here's the theme song for all the parallel universe people:
(kidding of course) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FZXFVEx4SI
Further Reading on California's Tule Elk and Pronghorn Antelope programs:
USGS: "Tracking Pronghorn Antelope in California’s Central Valley"
Further Reading on Valley Oak