By Julie Kahrnoff
A powerful, interactive and free educational tool is now available for educators everywhere, and for visitors to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. If you’re curious about the creeks, baylands, and urban drainage networks, or would like to teach your students about the local watershed, this computer program using satellite technology may be just the tool.
Watching Our Watersheds (WOW) is a project to map the creeks, urban drainage networks, watersheds, baylands, and points of interest in Santa Clara Valley. Anyone can now download these maps and view them interactively through Google Earth.
These maps have many layers including past landscapes of the San Francisco Bay. With WOW you can compare the waterways and habitats of the late 1800s to the present-day landscape. Within the maps exist points of interest such as diaries of Forty Niners who stopped in San José on their way to and from the gold mines, lists of birds and plants from early botanists and ornithologists, and some of the earliest landscape photography taken in the state. Archives were searched for every photograph, map, and manuscript revealing aspects of the Santa Clara Valley’s former ecological landscape. Each map comes with a User’s Guide to navigating in Google Earth and answers to FAQs about the WOW project and the individual layers in the map. The maps cover western, central and southern Santa Clara County.