Before the 1849 California Gold Rush, American, English and Russian fur hunters were drawn to Spanish (and then Mexican) California in a California Fur Rush, to exploit its enormous fur resources. Before 1825, these Europeans were drawn to the northern and central California coast to harvest prodigious quantities of southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) and fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus), and then to the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta to harvest beaver (Castor canadensis), river otter (Lontra canadensis), marten, fisher, mink, gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), weasel, and harbor seal. It was California's early fur trade, more than any other single factor, that opened up the West, and the San Francisco Bay Area in particular, to world trade.
Just three years after Juan de Ayala sailed the first ship to pass through the Golden Gate in 1775, North America's Pacific Coast fur trade began, but not by the Spanish who had sailed the California coast since João Rodrigues Cabrilho's voyage in 1542 and Sebastián Vizcaíno's mapping of coastal California in 1602. It began in 1778 with Captain James Cook's third voyage, when otter skins were obtained at Nootka Sound on the Northwest Coast and, although Cook was killed in Hawaii on the way to China, his men were shocked at the high prices paid by the Chinese. A profit of 1,800% was made. In 1783, when John Ledyard reported in Connecticut that enormous profits could be made selling otter skins to China, New England began sending American ships to hunt sea otter, and later, beaver, on the Pacific coast as early as 1787. That the California fur trade had begun by 1785, just ten years after Ayala discovered San Francisco Bay, is evidenced by the Spanish issuance of regulations to govern the collection of otter skins in California. The west coast fur trade enabled New England merchants to recover from the economic collapse which followed the American Revolutionary War, and was exacerbated by closure of British home and colonial ports to American trade.
France sent La Pérouse to California in 1786 to investigate the fur trade opportunity and he "obtained about a thousand sea otter skins which he sold in China for ten thousand dollars" and shared that "The Indians...at Monterey...catch them on land with snares...". La Perouse also said that "Antecedent to this year (1786) an otter's skin bore no higher value than two hare's skins; the Spanish never suspected that they would be much sought after." Apparently the Spanish had not earlier appreciated the value of furs, being from warmer climes, despite sea otter described in 1776 off Fort Point (then Cantil Blanco) in San Francisco Bay by Father Pedro Font on the De Anza Expedition. Font wrote, "I beheld a prodigy of nature, which is not easy to describe.... We saw the spouting of young whales, a line of dolphins or tunas, besides seals and otters..." However, they mounted a major commercial otter hunting enterprise in California when Vicente Vasadre y Vega arrived just one month before La Perouse, and implemented a plan whereby all otter skins had to be sold to him and they quickly recruited the Christian Indians at the Missions to bring in pelts. Vasadre sailed to San Blas on November 28, 1786 with 1,060 otter skins, to be shipped to the Philippines on the Manila galleons.
Robert Gray, captain of the ship Columbia rediscovered the mouth of the Columbia River in 1792 on his second voyage to the Pacific Coast. Although the Spanish explorer Bruno de Heceta discovered the river's mouth in 1775, no other explorer or fur trader had been able to find it since. By the 1790s American ships dominated the coastal fur trade south of Russian America. In fact, Bostonian ships dominated the fur trade between California and China through the 1820s, when the sea otter supply was exhausted, and well before the first American mountain man, Jedediah Smith pioneered overland to California in pursuit of beaver pelts in 1826.
The Russian-American Company's Ivan Kuskov sailed into Bodega Bay in 1809 on the Kad'yak and returned to Novoarkhangelsk (Sitka) with beaver skins and over 2,000 sea otter pelts. They settled Fort Ross and vicinity in order to pursue the animals in the region and to provide food for their Alaskan settlements. In his 1896 history of the Russian settlement of California, Thompson wrote of Kuskov's first voyage to Bodega Bay in 1809: "After carefully exploring the surrounding country, some temporary buildings were erected, some otter and beaver skins were procured, and friendly relations were established with the Indians". Before establishing a southern colony at Fort Ross, the Russian-American Company contracted with American ships beginning in 1810, providing them with Aleuts and baidarkas (kayaks) to hunt otter on the coast of Spanish California. From 1810 to 1812, Americans contracted to the Russians snuck Aleuts into San Francisco Bay multiple times, despite the Spanish capturing or shooting them while hunting sea otters in the estuaries of San Jose, San Mateo, and San Bruno and around Angel Island. Kuskov, this time in the schooner Chirikov, returned to Bodega Bay in 1812; finding otter now scarce, he sent a party of Aleuts to San Francisco Bay where they met another Russian party and an American party and caught 1,160 sea otters in three months. By 1817, sea otters in the area were practically eliminated and the Russians sought permission from the Spanish and the Mexican governments to hunt further and further south of San Francisco. In 1824, Russian-American Fur Company agent and writer Kiril Timofeevich Khlebnikov contracted with Captain John Cooper to take several of their hunting baidarkas on his trading schooner Rover along with Aleut hunters to hunt sea otter as far south as the 30th parallel on the Baja California peninsula. The Russians maintained a sealing station in the Farallon Islands from 1812 to 1840, taking 1,200 to 1,500 fur seals annually, though American ships had already exploited the islands. The American ships Albatross under Nathan Winship O'Cain under his brother Jonathan Winship were sent from Boston in 1809 to establish a settlement on the Columbia River. In 1810, they met up with two other American ships at the Farallon Islands, the Mercury and the Isabella, and at least 30,000 seal skins were taken. By 1822, the Farallons' fur seal hunt had diminished to 1,200 annually and the Russians suspended the hunt for two years. From 1824 on, the subsequent catch continued a steady decline until only about 500 could be taken annually; within the next few years, the seal was extirpated from the islands. As the marine fur-bearers became too depleted to hunt and contracts with the Hudson's Bay Company provided food for the Alaskan settlements, the Russians abandoned Fort Ross in 1841.
California golden beaver are recolonizing the Bay Area (from east to west): Kirker Creek in the Dow Wetlands of Pittsburg, Fairfield Creek in Cordelia, Alhambra Creek in Martinez, Southampton Creek in Benicia State Recreation Area, the Napa Sonoma Marsh in north San Pablo Bay, the Napa River, and Sonoma Creek. These beaver likely emigrated from the Delta which once sustained the densest beaver populations in North America. In addition, beaver were re-introduced in the 1930s by the California Department of Fish and Game to Pescadero Creek and sometime before 1993 in Los Gatos Creek, where they continue to thrive.
The spring 2007 sea otter survey counted 3,026 sea otters in the central California coast, down from an estimated pre-fur trade population of 16,000. California's sea otters are the descendants of a single colony of about 50 southern sea otters discovered near the mouth of Bixby Creek along California's Big Sur coast in 1938; their principal range is now from just south of San Francisco to Santa Barbara County.
Fur seals began to recolonize the Farallon Islands in 1996.
Both the California golden beaver and southern sea otter are considered keystone species, with a stabilizing and broad impact on their local ecosystems.
Alameda Creek (Spanish: Arroyo de la Alameda) is a large perennial stream in the San Francisco Bay Area. The creek runs for 45 miles (72 km) from a lake northeast of Packard Ridge to the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay by way of Niles Canyon and a flood control channel.Alhambra Creek
Alhambra Creek is a stream in Contra Costa County, in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area in northern California.Beaver in the Sierra Nevada
The North American beaver (Castor canadensis) had a historic range that overlapped the Sierra Nevada in California. Before the European colonization of the Americas, beaver were distributed from the arctic tundra to the deserts of northern Mexico. The California Golden beaver subspecies (Castor canadensis subauratus) was prevalent in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River watersheds, including their tributaries in the Sierra Nevada. Recent evidence indicates that beaver were native to the High Sierra until their extirpation in the nineteenth century.
Until recently, beavers were considered non-native pests. Beavers and their dams are still being removed by wildlife managers in the Sierra Nevada despite evidence of being native mammals and of their beneficial effects on biodiversity for fish and other species in mountain wetland ecosystems.Benicia State Recreation Area
Benicia State Recreation Area is a state park unit of California, USA, protecting tidal wetland. It is located in the Solano County city of Benicia, 2 miles (3.2 km) west of downtown Benicia and borders Vallejo's Glen Cove neighborhood. The park covers 447 acres (181 ha) of marsh, grassy hillsides and rocky beaches along the narrowest portion of the Carquinez Strait. Southampton Creek and the tidal marsh front Southampton Bay, where the combined waters of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers approach San Pablo Bay, the northern portion of San Francisco Bay.Big River (California)
The Big River is a 41.7-mile-long (67.1 km) river in Mendocino County, California, that flows from the northern California Coast Range to the Pacific Ocean at Mendocino, Mendocino County, California. From the mouth, brackish waters extend 8 miles (13 km) upstream, forming the longest undeveloped estuary in the state.California hide trade
The California hide trade was a trading system of various products based in cities along the California coastline, operating from the early 1820s to the mid-1840s.
In exchange for hides and tallow from cattle owned by California ranchers, sailors from around the globe, often representing corporations, swapped finished goods of all kinds. The trade was the essential constituent of the region’s economy at the time, and encompassed cities extending from Canton to Lima to Boston, and involved many nations including Russia, Mexico, the United States, and the United Kingdom.Corte Madera Creek (Marin County, California)
Corte Madera Creek is a short stream which flows southeast for 4.5 miles (7.2 km) in Marin County, California. Corte Madera Creek is formed by the confluence of San Anselmo Creek and Ross Creek in Ross and entering a tidal marsh at Kentfield before connecting to San Francisco Bay near Corte Madera.French Camp, California
French Camp is a census-designated place (CDP) in San Joaquin County, California, United States. The population was 3,376 at the 2010 census, down from 4,109 at the 2000 census. San Joaquin General Hospital is located in French Camp.
In recent years, Stockton has attempted to incorporate French Camp, allegedly in order to tax the current residents of the Census Designated Place.French Camp is the location of the U.S. Army Sharpe Depot and the GSA Western Distribution Center, and is the oldest settlement in San Joaquin County.Fur trade
The fur trade is a worldwide industry dealing in the acquisition and sale of animal fur. Since the establishment of a world fur market in the early modern period, furs of boreal, polar and cold temperate mammalian animals have been the most valued. Historically the trade stimulated the exploration and colonization of Siberia, northern North America, and the South Shetland and South Sandwich Islands.
Today the importance of the fur trade has diminished; it is based on pelts produced at fur farms and regulated fur-bearer trapping, but has become controversial. Animal rights organizations oppose the fur trade, citing that animals are brutally killed and sometimes skinned alive. Fur has been replaced in some clothing by synthetic imitations, for example, as in ruffs on hoods of parkas.Guadalupe River (California)
The Guadalupe River mainstem is an urban, northward flowing 14 miles (23 km) river in California whose much longer headwater creeks originate in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The river mainstem now begins on the Santa Clara Valley floor when Los Alamitos Creek exits Lake Almaden and joins Guadalupe Creek just downstream of Coleman Road in San Jose, California. From here it flows north through San Jose, where it receives Los Gatos Creek, a major tributary. The Guadalupe River serves as the eastern boundary of the City of Santa Clara and the western boundary of Alviso, and after coursing through San José, it empties into south San Francisco Bay at the Alviso Slough.
The Guadalupe River is the southernmost major U.S. river with a Chinook salmon run (see Habitat and Wildlife section below). Much of the river is surrounded by parks. The river's Los Alamitos and Guadalupe Creek tributaries are, in turn, fed by smaller streams flowing from Almaden Quicksilver County Park, home to former mercury mines dating back to when the area was governed by Mexico. The Guadalupe River watershed carries precipitation from the slopes of Loma Prieta and Mount Umunhum, the two major peaks of the Sierra Azul, the historical Spanish name ("Blue Mountains") for that half of the Santa Cruz Mountains south of California Highway 17. Two of the Guadalupe River's major tributaries, Los Gatos Creek and Guadalupe Creek have their sources in the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve on the western and eastern flanks of the Sierra Azul.Martinez, California beavers
The Martinez beavers are a family of California golden beavers living in Alhambra Creek in downtown Martinez, California. Best known as the longtime home of famed 19th/20th-century naturalist John Muir, Martinez has become a national example of urban stream restoration utilizing beavers as ecosystem engineers.In late 2006, a male and female beaver arrived in Alhambra Creek, proceeding to produce 4 kits over the course of the summer. After a decision by the City of Martinez to exterminate the beavers, local conservationists formed an organization called Worth a Dam and as a result of their activism, the decision was overturned. Subsequently, wildlife populations have increased in diversity along the Alhambra Creek watershed, most likely due to the dams maintained by the beavers.North American beaver
The North American beaver (Castor canadensis) is one of two extant beaver species. It is native to North America and introduced to Patagonia in South America and some European countries (e.g. Finland). In the United States and Canada, the species is often referred to simply as "beaver", though this causes some confusion because another distantly related rodent, Aplodontia rufa, is often called the "mountain beaver". Other vernacular names, including American beaver and Canadian beaver, distinguish this species from the other extant beaver species, Castor fiber, which is native to Eurasia. The North American beaver is an official animal symbol of Canada and is the official state mammal of Oregon.Russian River (California)
The Russian River is a southward-flowing river that drains 1,485 sq mi (3,850 km2) of Sonoma and Mendocino counties in Northern California. With an annual average discharge of approximately 1,600,000 acre feet (2.0 km3), it is the second-largest river (after the Sacramento River) flowing through the nine-county Greater San Francisco Bay Area, with a mainstem 110 mi (180 km) long.Russian colonization of the Americas
The Russian colonization of the Americas covers the period from 1732 to 1867, when the Russian Empire laid claim to northern Pacific Coast territories in the Americas. Russian colonial possessions in the Americas are collectively known as Russian America. Russian expansion eastward began in 1552, and in 1639 Russian explorers reached the Pacific Ocean. In 1725, Emperor Peter the Great ordered navigator Vitus Bering to explore the North Pacific for potential colonization. The Russians were primarily interested in the abundance of fur-bearing mammals on Alaska's coast, as stocks had been depleted by over hunting in Siberia. Bering's first voyage was foiled by thick fog and ice, but in 1741 a second voyage by Bering and Aleksei Chirikov made sight of the North American mainland.
Russian promyshlenniki (trappers and hunters) quickly developed the maritime fur trade, which instigated several conflicts between the Aleuts and Russians in the 1760s. The fur trade proved to be a lucrative enterprise, capturing the attention of other European nations. In response to potential competitors, the Russians extended their claims eastward from the Commander Islands to the shores of Alaska. In 1784, with encouragement from Empress Catherine the Great, explorer Grigory Shelekhov founded Russia's first permanent settlement in Alaska at Three Saints Bay. Ten years later, the first group of Orthodox Christian missionaries began to arrive, evangelizing thousands of Native Americans, many of whose descendants continue to maintain the religion. By the late 1780s, trade relations had opened with the Tlingits, and in 1799 the Russian-American Company (RAC) was formed in order to monopolize the fur trade, also serving as an imperialist vehicle for the Russification of Alaska Natives.
Angered by encroachment on their land and other grievances, the indigenous peoples' relations with the Russians deteriorated. In 1802, Tlingit warriors destroyed several Russian settlements, most notably Redoubt Saint Michael (Old Sitka), leaving New Russia as the only remaining outpost on mainland Alaska. This failed to expel the Russians, who reestablished their presence two years later following the Battle of Sitka. (Peace negotiations between the Russians and Native Americans would later establish a modus vivendi, a situation that, with few interruptions, lasted for the duration of Russian presence in Alaska.) In 1808, Redoubt Saint Michael was rebuilt as New Archangel and became the capital of Russian America after the previous colonial headquarters were moved from Kodiak. A year later, the RAC began expanding its operations to more abundant sea otter grounds in Northern California, where Fort Ross was built in 1812.
By the middle of the 19th century, profits from Russia's American colonies were in steep decline. Competition with the British Hudson's Bay Company had brought the sea otter to near extinction, while the population of bears, wolves, and foxes on land was also nearing depletion. Faced with the reality of periodic Native American revolts, the political ramifications of the Crimean War, and unable to fully colonize the Americas to their satisfaction, the Russians concluded that their American colonies were too expensive to retain. Eager to release themselves of the burden, the Russians sold Fort Ross in 1842, and in 1867, after less than a month of negotiations, the United States accepted Emperor Alexander II's offer to sell Alaska. The purchase of Alaska for $7.2 million ended Imperial Russia's colonial presence in the Americas. Many indigenous peoples protested the sale, arguing that they were the rightful owners of the land and that Russia had no right to sell Alaska.San Antonio Creek (Vandenberg Air Force Base)
San Antonio Creek is a creek flowing from the Solomon Hills to the Pacific Ocean, located in Santa Barbara County, California.San Francisco Bay Area
San Francisco Bay Area (popularly referred to as the Bay Area) is a populous region surrounding the San Francisco, San Pablo and Suisun Bay estuaries in the northern part of the U.S. state of California. Although the exact boundaries of the region vary depending on the source, the Bay Area is generally accepted to include the nine counties that border the aforementioned estuaries: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma, and San Francisco. Other sources may exclude parts of or even entire counties, or expand the definition to include neighboring counties that don't border the bay such as San Benito, San Joaquin, and Santa Cruz.
Home to approximately 7.68 million people, Northern California's nine-county Bay Area contains many cities, towns, airports, and associated regional, state, and national parks, connected by a complex multimodal transportation network. The larger combined statistical area of the region, which includes twelve counties, is the second-largest in California (after the Greater Los Angeles area), the fifth-largest in the United States, and the 41st-largest urban area in the world with 8.75 million people. The Bay Area's population is ethnically diverse: for example, roughly half of the region's residents are Hispanic, Asian, African American, or Pacific Islander, all of whom have a significant presence throughout the region.
The earliest archaeological evidence of human settlements in the Bay Area dates back to 3000 BC. In 1769, the Bay Area was inhabited by the Ohlone people when a Spanish exploration party led by Gaspar de Portolà entered the Bay – the first documented European visit to the Bay Area. After Mexico established independence from Spain in 1821, the region was briefly controlled by the Mexican government until the United States purchased the territory in 1846 during the Mexican–American War. Soon after, discovery of gold in California attracted a flood of treasure seekers, many using ports in the Bay Area as an entry point. During the early years of California's statehood, state legislative business rotated between three locations in the Bay Area before a permanent state capital was established in Sacramento. A major earthquake leveled the city of San Francisco and environs in 1906, but the region quickly rebuilt in time to host the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. During World War II, the Bay Area played a major role in America's war effort in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater, with San Francisco's Fort Mason acting as a primary embarkation point for American forces. In 1945, the United Nations Charter was signed in San Francisco, establishing the United Nations, and in 1951, the Treaty of San Francisco officially ended the U.S.'s war with Japan. Since then, the Bay Area has experienced numerous political, cultural and artistic movements, developing unique local genres in music and art and establishing itself as a hotbed of progressive politics. Economically, the post-war Bay Area saw huge growth in the financial and technology industries, creating a vibrant and diverse economy with a gross domestic product of over $800 billion, and home to the second highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the United States.
Despite its urban character, the San Francisco Bay is one of California's most ecologically important habitats, providing key ecosystem services such as filtering pollutants and sediments from the rivers, and supporting a number of endangered species. The region is also known for the complexity of its landforms, the result of millions of years of tectonic plate movements. Because the Bay Area is crossed by six major earthquake faults, the region is particularly exposed to hazards presented by large earthquakes. The climate is temperate and generally very mild, and is ideal for outdoor recreational and athletic activities such as hiking. The Bay Area is host to seven professional sports teams and is a cultural center for music, theater, and the arts. It is also host to several institutions of higher education, ranging from primary schools to major research universities. Home to 101 municipalities and nine counties, governance in the Bay Area is multifaceted and involves numerous local and regional actors, each with wide-ranging and overlapping responsibilities.Santa Ynez River
The Santa Ynez River is one of the largest rivers on the Central Coast of California. It is 92 miles (148 km) long, flowing from east to west through the Santa Ynez Valley, reaching the Pacific Ocean at Surf, near Vandenberg Air Force Base and the city of Lompoc.
The river drains the north slope of the Santa Ynez Mountains, the south slope of the San Rafael Mountains, as well as much of the southern half of Santa Barbara County. Its drainage basin is 896 square miles (2,320 km2) in area. The river's flow is highly variable. It usually dries up almost completely in the summer, but can become a raging torrent in the winter. The river has three dams which can impound a total of 210,000 acre feet (260,000,000 m3) of water in wet years.Sespe Creek
Sespe Creek (Chumash: S'eqp'e', "Kneecap") is a stream, some 61 miles (98 km) long, in Ventura County, southern California, in the Western United States. The creek starts at Potrero Seco in the eastern Sierra Madre Mountains, and is formed by more than thirty tributary streams of the Sierra Madre and Topatopa Mountains, before it empties into the Santa Clara River in Fillmore.
Thirty-one miles (50 km) of Sespe Creek is designated as a National Wild and Scenic River and National Scenic Waterway, and is untouched by dams or concrete channels. It is one of the last wild rivers in Southern California. It is primarily within the southern Los Padres National Forest.
The name Sespe can be traced to a Chumash Indian village, called Cepsey, Sek-pe or S'eqpe' ("Kneecap") in the Chumash language in 1791. The village appeared in a Mexican Alta California land grant called Rancho Sespe or Rancho San Cayetano in 1833.Sonoma Creek
Sonoma Creek is a 33.4-mile-long (53.8 km) stream in northern California. It is one of two principal drainages of southern Sonoma County, California, with headwaters rising in the rugged hills of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and discharging to San Pablo Bay, the northern arm of San Francisco Bay. The watershed drained by Sonoma Creek is roughly equivalent to the wine region of Sonoma Valley, an area of about 170 square miles (440 km2). The State of California has designated the Sonoma Creek watershed as a “Critical Coastal Water Resource”. To the east of this generally rectangular watershed is the Napa River watershed, and to the west are the Petaluma River and Tolay Creek watersheds.
This south flowing river drains the western slopes of the Mayacamas Range, the southern slopes of Annadel State Park and the eastern slopes of the Sonoma Mountains with intermittent winter flows in the higher tributary reaches. As the tributaries and headwaters reach the valley floor, a perennial stream cuts through scenic and valuable vineyards of Kenwood. Sonoma Creek veers west at Kenwood and cuts a gorge running parallel to Warm Springs Road, where it turns south to historic Glen Ellen, passing within one mile (1.6 kilometers) of Jack London State Historic Park and the Wolf House and thence southward paralleling Arnold Drive. In the city of Sonoma it is an urban creek which emerges into agricultural areas to the south. Finally, Sonoma Creek discharges to the vast Napa-Sonoma Marsh at the northern tip of San Pablo Bay. Principal tributaries to the creek include Yulupa Creek, Graham Creek, Calabazas Creek, Bear Creek, Schell Creek, and Fowler Creek.
History of the North American fur trade by region
|Fur trading regions|
|Lists of forts and trading posts|
|Canoe routes and fur brigades|
See also: Siberian fur trade