Before there was a Reserve, there was a dairy. To increase grazing land, the marsh land was drained. To accommodate a large number of cows, a variety of buildings were constructed. You can see this in the aerial photo from 1980. Compared to the aerial from more recent times, you can still spot the big barn on the Reserve, but now wetlands and marshes have returned. Restoration takes time – years – but the changes can be seen even from afar. What can’t be seen in these photos is the wildlife that has returned to the mud, water, and woodlands.
Before (1980): This image was captured in color infrared which shows vegetation with different water content. The more moisture content, the brighter red the image. Irrigated crops and wetland vegetation show bright red, dry grass is brown, open water is blue, and white is exposed earth.
The many buildings you see here show the once operational Elkhorn Dairy. The straight line on the left side of both images is the railroad. Notice the land east of the railroad is being used for farming and grazing.
After (2011): Tidal flows have been returned to the formerly diked and drained wetlands, and wildlife such as leopard sharks, harbor seals, and sea otters now use the area as habitat. Work to improve the habitat continues today, and it includes the completed Parsons sill project.
With the exception of the two barns that now reside on the Reserve’s South Marsh Loop Trail, the dairy buildings are gone.