A Look Into a River's Past
Photo: University of California, Davis
This 1824 map by Spanish missionary Father Narciso Durán is one of the earliest European depictions of San Francisco Estuary, showing over a dozen distinct indigenous communities in the Delta.
In the early 1800s, the Delta’s indigenous populations declined precipitously due to forced relocations to Spanish missions and epidemics of European diseases that decimated entire villages. This effectively ended native land management of the Delta.
Accounts from the 1830s and 1840s describe once-thriving villages within the Central Valley deserted and strewn with the bones of the former residents. By the Gold Rush era, which began in 1848, the indigenous population of the region was significantly reduced.
For more on this story, read Restoring the San Joaquin River and Recalling Its History