The region supports a variety of ecological communities including serpentine chaparral, grasslands, oak woodlands, and extensive riparian and cliff habitats. Contiguous ranches and natural areas provide unfragmented habitat for the movement of mountain lions, coyotes and other big mammals. The BRBNA includes concentrations of rare species and globally significant plant communities and has been recognized as one of the most biologically diverse areas in the United States by The Nature Conservancy.
Ranching as a Way of Life
A number of large cattle ranches as well as several vineyards, one of which has been in operation since 1893, reflect the region’s economy and history and reveal a landscape shaped by decades of human use. Poor soils, limited water, and remoteness have suppressed competition from other land uses, allowing these ranches to remain economically viable. Families operating these ranches go back many generations and offer a window into a California way of life that has vanished from much of the state.
Places to Raft, Fish, Bike, Hike & Swim
The region’s public lands and waters draw visitors who seek the wide variety of nature-based, resource-compatible activities found here. These include hiking through the scenic and varied terrain; lakeside and remote camping; biking and horseback riding along miles of less-traveled roads; fishing, canoeing and kayaking in lakes and creeks; swimming, boating and water-skiing at Lake Berryessa; and white water rafting in Cache Creek.
A History of Natives, Miners & Ranchers
Archaeologists have found traces of human settlement throughout the BRBNA dating back 10,000 years. More recently, four Native American groups populated the region – the Hill Patwin, the Pomo, the Lake Miwok, and the Mayacamus (Wappo). Spanish explorers arrived in the region as early as 1808, followed by other settlers in search of land and livelihood. The California Gold Rush provided a market for the quicksilver produced by the area’s mercury mines and transformed the surrounding farming communities into a booming agricultural region.