Friday, April 18, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Tuleyome Tales: How the California delta happened

A remnant of the pristine delta. Courtesy photo

By Glen Holstein

Fifteen thousand years ago, the land that became known as California had no delta and was in a very different world. Much of North America and Europe were covered by vast continental ice sheets. By then, people occupied most of the Eastern Hemisphere but few, if any, had yet reached the Americas.

Then, what is now Central California’s coastline was 26 miles west of its present location. The Farallons were then not islands but coastal headlands overlooking an open ocean dropping abruptly to great depths.

What is now the continental shelf was a vast, dry land plain bisected by an ancestral Sacramento River swollen to great volume by melting glaciers then widespread in the Sierra Nevada. It entered the Pacific south of the Farallons and flowed through the Coast Range 300 feet below present water level in deep canyons at what are now the Golden Gate and Carquinez Strait.

The climate then along the lower Sacramento was much like the present coast of southern Alaska and British Columbia, but the world was warming. The great continental ice sheets began retreating, and their melt water caused seas to rise everywhere. By 10,000 years ago, they neared the present shoreline and by 8,000 years ago had entered the Golden Gate.

People were definitely in what would become California by then, and had established villages in a broad valley just inside the outermost Coast Range ridge. Soon, however, rising seas following the ancestral Sacramento River’s channel inland completely flooded their valley and created what later arrivals would call San Francisco Bay.

Inexorably, seas pushed farther inland, flooding more valleys and creating new bays like San Pablo and Suisun until they finally stopped near the present Montezuma Hills 5,000 years ago.

There, freshwater flowing downstream from the Sierra and Cascade mountains through the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers met seawater flowing inland through the Golden Gate. They mixed some, but the freshwater mostly flowed outward some distance in a shallow lens above the heavier salt water.

That acted as a hydraulic dam to stop most river flow at the Montezuma Hills and cause freshwater to back up and flood a vast area in the lowest part of the Central Valley.

This flooding starting just 5,000 years ago created California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Because sea level rise was gradual, the flooded area always remained very shallow beyond the deeper river channels and became covered by tall marsh plants called tules.

Seas still slowly rose, though, and freshwater in the flooded delta area also rose just slowly enough for each new tule generation to grow on the last’s flooded remains. Eventually, the latest tule generation grew on many feet of ancestral organic remains, which became the delta’s famous peat soil.

A similar process in the same time period north of East Anglia created England’s famous Fenlands and provided the term “fen” for similar wetlands around the world. Consequently the delta is California’s largest fen and one of the largest in the world. What happened to it next is another tale.

— Glen Holstein received his Ph.D. in botany from UC Davis and is a senior scientist with Zentner and Zentner, a local biological consulting company. He is a member of the board of Tuleyome, a nonprofit organization working to protect the wild and agricultural heritage of California’s Inner Coast Range and Western Sacramento Valley.

Special to The Enterprise

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

News

Former caretaker convicted of murder, elder abuse

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1, 4 Comments | Gallery

 
Old friend helps Brad and others find kidneys

By Dave Jones | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Chuck Rairdan joins school board race

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1, 1 Comment

Going green at church, school, everywhere

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
For the record

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

 
UCD to host Global Health Day event

By Cory Golden | From Page: A2

Ukraine insurgents reject call to quit buildings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 2 Comments

 
Need a new best friend?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
‘Hitchhiking’ dog looking for new home

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Online K-12 school holds info night

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Volkssporting Club plans North Davis walks

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Schwenger lawn signs available

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

Volunteers needed for Grad Night

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Davis grad makes rain collection a business

By Jason McAlister | From Page: A4 | Gallery

A few spots left on history tour

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Chipotle fundraiser boosts Emerson tech upgrade

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Event to provide nature scholarship

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Students have new options on leasing front

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Groups join for a day of service

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
NAMI backers walk in Sacramento

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
Food for the hungry

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10

.

Forum

Dad makes mom look bad

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

 
More tax money? Answer the question

By Rich Rifkin | From Page: A6, 2 Comments

 
UCD IS responsible for students

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 2 Comments

Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

 
In search of great ideas

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Please keep the nursery open

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Early help is a great investment

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

.

Sports

Aggies lose a slugfest in opener at Riverside

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Fox coming to UCD; Riffle heads to Florida

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

DHS’ Golston goes full-bore on the diamond

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Devils show more life in loss to Mitty

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

Sharks double up Kings in Game 1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
DYSA roundup: Intensity has big week; 10U games dominate schedule

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Pro baseball roundup: Susac sends Sacramento to a rare loss

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Sports briefs: Aggies set the academic bar high

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery

.

Features

.

Arts

‘The Bloom’ paves way for Whole Earth Festival

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
DHS tribute to Tony Fields slated for April 25-26

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

UCD, city team up for Music on the Green

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
‘Transcendence’: A whole new level of tedium

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

.

Business

Ford turns its Focus to domestic market

By Ali Arsham | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Friday, April 18, 2014

By Creator | From Page: A9

 
.

Real Estate Review

Featured Listing

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER1

Professional Services Directory

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER2

Lyon Real Estate

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER3

Jamie Madison

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Yolo FCU

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Acacia at Huntington Square

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Travis Credit Union

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER5

Kim Eichorn

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

Suzanne Kimmel

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

Lynne Wegner

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

Kim Merrel Lamb

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

Chris Snow

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

Patricia Echevarria

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

Don Guthrie

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

Andrew Dowling

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

Sheryl Patterson

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

Coldwell Banker

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER10

Coldwell Banker

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

Julie Partain & Dick Partain

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER12

Heather Barnes

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER12

Malek Baroody

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER13

Karen Waggoner

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

Willowbank Park

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

Team Traverso

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

Julie Leonard

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

Tim Harrison

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

Tracy Harris

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

Lori Prizmich

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

Raul Zamora

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

Joe Kaplan

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

Coldwell Banker

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER18

Open House Map

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER19

F1rst Street Real Estate

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER20