This project investigated the historical ecological patterns and hydrological dynamics of most of lowland Ventura County. Synthesizing over two centuries of local documents, the project report and accompanying GIS layers provide a detailed, comprehensive, well-documented illustration of landscape conditions in the county prior to substantial Euro-American modification.

The geographic scope of the study includes the lower Santa Clara River valley (downstream of Interstate 5), the lower Ventura River valley (downstream of Matilija Dam and excluding the Ojai Valley), the Oxnard Plain (including Calleguas Creek), and the Ventura County shoreline (from the mouth of the Ventura River to Mugu Lagoon). The study focuses on the documentation of the character and distribution of riverine and wetland habitats in the County.

This study was designed to significantly improve our understanding of the underlying physical processes that have shaped - and in many cases, continue to shape - the local landscape. In doing so, it provides scientists, managers, and residents in Ventura County with information designed to support and inspire ongoing management and restoration activities in the region.

Of related interest is a study entitled Historical Mapping of Southern California Coastal Wetlands, which uses high-resolution, color scans of 25 U.S. Coast (and Geodetic) Survey Topographic Maps (“t-sheets”) to conduct preliminary analysis and interpretation of historical wetlands along the Southern California coast.




Eric Stein Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP)
Shawna Dark California State University, Northridge (CSUN)
Bruce Orr and Pete Downs Stillwater Sciences
Travis Longcore University of Southern California (USC)
Gretchen Coffman San Francisco State University (SFSU)
John Cloud National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Tom Dudley University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)


California Coastal Conservancy

Project Status

Completed August 2011

GIS Data

GIS data and metadata are available for download

Download the Report

high resolution PDF (for printing)
Historical Ecology of the lower Santa Clara River, Ventura River, and Oxnard Plain (202 MB)

low resolution PDF (for screen viewing)
Historical Ecology of the lower Santa Clara River, Ventura River, and Oxnard Plain (low resolution) (17 MB)

For More Information Contact

Erin Beller
Robin Grossinger

2009 to 2011
Associated Staff: 
Programs and Focus Areas: 
Resilient Landscapes Program
Historical Ecology
Watershed Science & Management
Location Information