Where tomatoes and alfalfa used to grow is now water: Lake Tulare has grown to more than 200 square kilometers.
In the Central Valley of California, a long-drained lake has re-emerged as a result of rainfall. The snowmelt exacerbated the situation. The damage is great, but there are also beneficiaries.
Before the great reservoirs on the Colorado were built in the American west in the last century, the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi was in a place that is truly unusual from today’s perspective: in the south of California’s central valley, where billions of dollars are sold annually with agricultural products the Tulare Sea the landscape. Depending on the amount of winter precipitation, the shallow lake covered hundreds of square kilometers. Even in drier years, the area was a marshy wetland where reeds grew meters high and many species of waterfowl made their home.
This unique ecosystem changed dramatically in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when white settlers pushed out indigenous people from the area and dug canals to drain the lake. On the fertile, dry lake bed, they then grew almost everything that could thrive in the Californian climate: cotton, tomatoes, wheat, alfalfa, oil plants such as sunflowers and safflowers, and large plantations of fruit and nut trees were established.