The California shoreline from Bodega Head to Mendocino, part of the “Redwood Coast,” is a dramatic marine and coastal environment. Thousands of years of human interaction have impacted this region and its marine and shore-side resources as much as this environment has shaped the activities and cultures of its people.
The Redwood Coast is strongly shaped and influenced by the offshore marine environment of Cordell Bank and the edge of the continental shelf, where the upwelling of the California current created a fishery as well as inshore kelp forests on marine terraces that provided habitat for marine mammals. The same environment of cold sea merges with warm air from the coastal hills and valleys to pull in thick blankets of fog that created an ideal climate for the growth of the redwood forests
CLIMATE & HABITAT
Redwood Coastal area whose climate and marine mammal habitat brought the first non-native settlers to this coast. Russian and Aleut farmers and fur traders established agricultural outposts and a fortified settlement from which hunters on baidarkas hunted the marine mammals to near-extinction, working in the numerous small coves and kelp forests of this area before venturing farther south to the Farallones and into San Francisco Bay. Their place names, the standing and reconstructed buildings of Fort Ross, and the archaeological remains of their other settlements and camps at Bodega Head and along the coast remain as a reminder of them and their activities.
fISHING & tOURISM
The Redwood Coast is an area whose fishery inspired the growth of a commercial and recreational industry whose people came from as far as San Francisco to harvest off the Farallones, Cordell Bank, and thence along the Redwood Coast, with many of those who fished coming from different lands and cultures to settle here and build an industry and communities. That fishing community was multicultural and diverse.
Our history, culture and rugged beauty, as well as the need to provide regular links, inspired pushes for access by land as well as by sea.. Limited wagon roads gave way to a coastal railroad, and in the early 20th century, to State Route 1, the “Coast Highway,” which links the coastal environment and its communities. These led to increased tourism and development that marketed the benefits and beauty of the maritime landscape.
Historically, the Farallon Islands and the mainland coast north of the Golden Gate have presented hazardous navigational obstacles to shipping. Today we are reminded of past shipwrecks through geographic place names that still exist today. Such places as Caspars Reef, Windermer Point, Franconia Bay, Noonday Rock, Tennessee Cove, Duxbury Reef, and to the south of the Golden Gate Colorado Reef, Pigeon Point, and Franklin Point are all named for shipwrecks. Year-round fog and dangerous winds and storms often drove ships onto rocks and beaches to be pounded by the Pacific swells, while others foundered in collisions with other vessels or were overcome when the sea breached their hulls. Fierce currents have always swept in and out of the entrance to the Golden Gate. Ships were most vulnerable when trying to approach San Francisco or when trading along the coast seeking the shallow anchorages at Bodega, Tomales, Drake's Bay and Bolinas Bay. Until the 20th century, existing charts were incomplete and sometimes misleading. Lighthouses, buoys and other navigational aids were nonexistent until the 1850s.
While oral traditions speak of people from the dawn of time on the coast, little archaeological evidence is known about the Paleo- Indians of coastal Central California. By 11,000 years ago, the generally accepted date of earliest human habitation, sea level was already rising. But people may have come earlier, and evidence of that now lies in waters as deep as 300 feet. The Paleo- Coastal people may have either lived in the near-shore environment or lived inland and traveled to the shore to hunt marine mammals. In order to learn the nature of Paleo-Coastal habitation on the exposed late-Pleistocene/Holocene continental shelf, geophysical studies and prehistoric site modeling should be developed based on previously published regional archaeological assessments. Site prediction and sediment sampling would establish previous shorelines and relict landforms. Any cultural material would be of extreme significance.
Today, there are three federally recognized tribes along the coastline of the expanded Greater Farallones sanctuary:
History and Culture
The History of The Sea Ranch from the Pomo Indians to Present
Maritime Cultural Landscape of the Redwood Coast (pdf)