The Napa Valley Historical Ecology Atlas takes readers on a richly illustrated tour of the iconic Napa Valley landscape from 200 years ago to the present and future.

Using the pioneering SFEI Historical Ecology approach, the Atlas challenges many preconceived notions about the nature of California landscapes, and suggests strategies to increase the health and resilience of local watersheds based on an understanding of how natural systems function. The Atlas is designed to support a broad range of local efforts for ecological restoration and watershed stewardship in Napa Valley, while providing a new and accessible model for historical ecology studies in other regions.

Written by historical ecologist Robin Grossinger, designed by Ruth Askevold, and with contributions by many SFEI staff and local partners, the Atlas draws upon ongoing contemporary and historical research on the Napa River watershed conducted by SFEI.


Order a copy of the Atlas from University of California Press


  • New York Times Jeanne Carstensen: "Unlocking the landscape in this way, so that the past is revealed in the present, is the almost magical outcome of (the) atlas"
  • San Francisco Chronicle Leah Garchik: Bringing Back the Napa Valley shade
  • Napa Valley Register Chantal M. Lovell: New book documents valley’s changes over past 200 years
  • KALW Ben Trefny: Historically smart land design
  • Estuary News Ariel Rubissow Okamoto: History Detectives

Praise for the Atlas

“Welcome to the ecodetectives, the landscape archeologists, here to show us what was once in one particular valley and how places in general change and how historical maps and photographs can set your imagination on fire and tell you where you are more deeply than anything else. Every time I visit the Estuary Institute, Robin and cartographer Ruth are there presiding over tables layered thick with big reproductions of old maps and eager to show more maps on their computers: visiting them at work is time travel, cartographic chatauqua, art exhibition, and ecological epiphany, and it's wonderful all that is finally packed into a book, and a beautiful book at that.”

—Rebecca Solnit, author of Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas and Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics

"Elk, grizzly, salmon, and Napa? Robin Grossinger and colleagues from the San Francisco Estuary Institute are the premier poet-scientists of the California landscape. Here they have created a beautiful, thoughtful, transformative look at the original ecology of the Napa Valley. If you are interested in sustainability, terroir, or the future of California, I would highly recommend this book."

— Eric W. Sanderson, author of Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York

"This wonderful atlas is like none other. It takes you on a trip back through time and space, peeling away layer after layer of Napa Valley history. It gets under the skin of this enchanting place and then under yours. Once you learn to read the signposts of the past, you'll never look at the landscape of Napa—or anyplace else—the same way again. Grossinger and Askevold elevate local geography to a new plane of scientific precision, historical reconstruction, and elegant imagery. They even sketch a set of tours for revisiting Napa country on your own and practical lessons on how this precious landscape can be better managed in the future by keeping an eye on the past."

— Richard Walker, author of The Country in the City: The Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area

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