|A wilderness surprise: Joe Domecq Wilderness Park|
1. A neglected or abandoned area of a garden or town.
2. An area essentially undisturbed by human activity together with its naturally developed life community.
Can these two meanings be reconciled? I'm used to the definition of wilderness as it was written into the 1964 Wilderness Act: a contiguous area of at least 5,000 acres (7.8 square miles) that is as close to a primeval natural state as is possible. The landscape where I live has precious little remaining wilderness: the Great Valley has less than 5% of its original ecosystem. The Sierra Nevada has more open space and wilderness, but mostly in the high country. The deep forests of the middle elevations have been extensively logged, while the foothills were upended in the search for gold. The rivers have been mostly dammed.
|Gold dredge deposits near Merced Falls|
|Dredged floodplain on the Merced River near Snelling, CA. Courtesy of GoogleEarth|
How was this destructive? The mining process destroyed the natural soil of the river floodplains and replaced it with barren piles of boulders and cobbles that were no longer useful for pretty much any other purpose. Especially the growing of crops. Many tens of thousands of acres of valley floor were permanently altered. A dredge field on the Merced River in my area is nine miles long and half a mile wide. Similar amounts of land were dredged on the Tuolumne River that flows by my home town.
part of the larger La Grange Regional Park administered by Stanislaus County. We were intrigued and walked in.
|Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)|
I spied an Osprey perched on a snag across the pond. I thought it would be the top dog of the local environment, but it was soon chased off by a large Red-tailed Hawk (below).
|Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)|