Drought in Marin

by Laurie Thompson

Though the current drought appears to be unprecedented in California history, drought has effected Marin County (and the rest of the state) periodically throughout its history. Many still remember how the drought affected Marin in the mid-1970s, epitomized in this 1976 photograph of Lake Nicasio disseminated by the Marin Municipal Water District.

140 years ago, on June 3, 1875, the Marin County Journal reported on drought conditions affecting Bolinas:

The drought which is having its effect on the entire State, extends to our classic retreat [Bolinas] and although this would not seem strange to most people, it is however something unusual, as in years past when the interior and southern portions of the State were a failure in their crops, we here had a good yield, and vice versa…. Hay and grain will be light in many places, but nearly all sowed in early winter is looking well. Wood hauling has got started in earnest, and the roads are getting very dusty — but Bolinasites are used to that, they’ve had it for the last fifteen years. Grass is dying up very fast and the yield of butter has fallen from 12 to 15 percent, below the maximum. Wegner Bros. have new potatoes they’ve raised for sale while many others hereabouts are still planting.

16 years later (January 15, 1891) a reporter for the Marin Journal describes how unusually low rainfall during the Fall and early Winter is affecting the dairymen in Tomales:

…..the dairymen -well, ‘this is the winter of their discontent.’ They tell me the reason is plain; that when there is no rain in October and November to the dairymen of Marin County that means a drought; if not absolute, it at least makes it hard on cattle, as there is not moisture to start the grass before the frost comes. They also say that water was never known to be so low as this fall and early winter. They claim they did not have their usual amount of fog during the summer, and it was warmer than common, hence the low ebb of wells, springs and small streams. Now I supposed the fogs of Marin County were a common ill, that everybody had to put up with for the sake of living in this otherwise much favored locality. But the dairymen tell me no. They maintain if the fogs are not the poetry of the dairy business, they are the profit, and Marin County would not be the prosperous and best butter county of the State if it were not for the fogs.

Originally published at https://annetkent.kontribune.com.

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