Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Down by the Bay

Down by the Bay: San Francisco's History between the Tides

Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 292
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Down by the Bay
    Book Description:

    San Francisco Bay is the largest and most productive estuary on the Pacific Coast of North America. It is also home to the oldest and densest urban settlements in the American West. Focusing on human inhabitation of the Bay since Ohlone times,Down By The Bayreveals the ongoing role of nature in shaping that history. From birds to oyster pirates, from gold miners to farmers, from salt ponds to ports, this is the first history of the San Francisco Bay and Delta as both a human and natural landscape. It offers invaluable context for current discussions over the best management and use of the Bay in the face of sea level rise.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95148-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION. Layers of History
    (pp. 1-13)

    To visiting tourists, the iconic experience of the San Francisco Bay Area may be viewing orange bridge towers emerging from swirling fog. For locals, however, it is crossing San Francisco Bay to go to work. Every weekday morning a million people leave their homes around the bay and drive, bike, or ride a train or ferry to work. For many, the destination is the city of San Francisco, where some 765,000 people sleep but nearly a million spend their workdays.¹ San Francisco sits at the tip of a peninsula surrounded by water, so for most commuters, getting to work means...

  6. ONE Rising Tide
    (pp. 15-31)

    Seen from space, California’s coast is a thin white line between the deep blue ocean and the green and brown of a seasonally arid land. In a thousand miles of pounding surf and steep cliffs, only once does the ocean enter deeply into the land. Three great, kidney-shaped bays spread inland and eastward from the ocean, meeting ribbons of water draining snow-capped mountains to the east. The three shallow bodies together form San Francisco Bay, arm of the sea and estuary of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. From about five miles up—the altitude of a commercial airliner—cities,...

  7. TWO Ghost Tidelands
    (pp. 33-69)

    A traveler walking south of San Francisco’s Market Street on any summer or fall day in 1869 would have seen something both very odd to modern eyes and yet typical of that time. Men slowly rowed an open boat along the waterfront, pausing every few yards to record the depth of the water. On the beach, another group of men equipped with chains and poles traced the meanders of the shoreline, their boots squishing through sticky mud, spongy pickleweed, and knee-high cordgrass. Later, the data from the boat and the sketches from the shore were combined into a map. The...

  8. THREE Reclaiming the Delta
    (pp. 71-109)

    In the late nineteenth century, flush with capital earned in commerce, urban real estate, and the mines, San Francisco’s capitalists sought new arenas for investment. Their appraising eyes were drawn to the undeveloped tidal swamplands at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. The Sacramento-San Joaquin delta’s vast marshes and floodplains held both natural and legal advantages for market cropping. Delta soils were cheap, rich, and directly accessible to ocean shipping from San Francisco Bay. Ocean tides backed up the sluggish lower reaches of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, making the delta an extension of the bay....

  9. FOUR An Edible Bay
    (pp. 111-152)

    In 1902, twenty-two-year-old Oakland writer Jack London published his first book, an adventure story for boys. In the novel, London’s hero runs away from a comfortable middle-class home to test his mettle in the rough world of the San Francisco waterfront. Plucky but naïve, Joe Bronson soon finds himself sailing down San Francisco Bay in a rickety sloop called theDazzler,piloted by hard-drinking French Pete and his tough orphan sidekick, the ’Frisco Kid. TheDazzlerjoins a small fleet of boats congregating in the tidal flats along the eastern shoreline of San Francisco Bay. Keeping a wary eye out...

  10. FIVE From Real Estate to Refuge
    (pp. 153-184)

    Fly into any Bay Area airport, and a singular view dominates the landing approach. Planes come in low over pools of still, shallow water. The pools placidly reflect nearby hills and the sky above. Still water stretches for miles along both shores of southern San Francisco Bay, walled off from the bay by thin mud levees. Passengers with window seats can see that the ponds are not brown, like the adjacent muddy bay shallows roiled by wind and tides, nor blue, like the deep central bay channels. The ponds instead are a series of shocking colors: lime green, orange, rusty...

  11. CONCLUSION: Rising Tides?
    (pp. 185-190)

    Before modern chemical industries, estuaries’ remarkable ability to conserve, recycle, and concentrate nutrients made these among the best places on earth for people to find something to eat. Such concentrations of energy are hard to find in nature. Understandably, people wanted to live near estuaries and tidal margins. Nineteenth-century Americans captured this richness in their saying, “When the tide is out, the table is set.” In an industrial world, the nature of tidal wetlands takes a perverse twist. The wetlands’ natural function of trapping particulate matter means that the marshes and mudflats filter and concentrate industrial wastes as well as...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 191-226)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 227-258)
  14. Index
    (pp. 259-278)