The stunning and increasingly picturesque county of Sonoma is comfortably situated on the northern coast of the Golden State California. Coterminous with other counties like Marin and Napa, Sonoma has the largest area of the rest of the nine SF Bay Area counties. Sonoma is, in fact, one of the best counties when it comes to California’s ‘wine country region’. With over 13 of America’s AVA situated here, Sonoma is a wine lovers paradise. The county comprises of the city of Sonoma and the well known Sonoma Valley, though the valley region is not just limited to these. The county consists of cities like St. Helena, Yountville Napa, and unincorporated towns like Circle Oaks, Gordon Valley, Chiles Valley, Deer Park, Dry Creek to name a few. The largest city of this county is Santa Rosa.
Sonoma County has the Pacific Ocean bordering it on the western side and North Coast ranges on the other, thereby lending to the area a scenic backdrop which attracts tourists by thousands every year. The North Coast Ranges have to their credit, peaks like the Hood Mountain and mounts like the Sonoma Mountains and the Mayacamas. Besides this, the famous Sears Point finds its home in the Sonoma Mountains as does the Pygmy Forest in the Mayacamas. Besides this, the mountains are even home to Historic parks and Preserves. The county is bestowed with the bountiful areas of woodlands, grasslands, marshes, forests, oak savannas and coastal scrubs thereby providing the Sonoma backdrop with an awe striking diversity. The county is lucky to have natural areas like the California oak woodland and spring creek watersheds and state parks like Annadel State Park. You‘ll find these spots to be a thriving centre of flora and fauna with some interesting species flourishing here. The water bodies zigzagging and running their course through the county are the Russian River, Gualala River, Petaluma River and Goat Rock Beach; they offer magnificent views and make for a very reviving experience. The foliage of this area comprises of trees like Douglas fir, California laurel, Garry oak and Coast Live Oak. Few other commonly found varieties are, coast silk-tassel and poison oak. The county has its fair share of threatened species as well; from the freshwater shrimp to the clapper rail including the red-legged frog and showy Indian clover, the county has it all! You can also find the California Tiger Salamander here.
Talking about the weather, you will find a lot of diversity here. As a result of its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the weather here has a fair degree of coolness to it. You are sure to enjoy your Sonoma summers, basking in the sun, feeling the cool breeze playing with your hair… the county can be said to have various microclimates, all as a result of the varied topography surrounding the area. It’s nearness to the ocean, the Central Valley along with the hills and mountains enveloping the area have played a huge part in shaping the weather conditions of the county. Fogs are a common occurrence here. The summer season on this side of the country ranges from being normal to a little high.
History of Sonoma
Talking about the historical perspective of the county, its past can be dated back to 5000 BC. The first people to ever settle on these shores of the country were the Wappo, Pomo and Coast Miwoks. They came to these lands somewhere between the 8000’s to the 5000’s (BC) and their presence can still be felt through the carvings they left behind. The carvings were done on rock in, what experts call a ‘pecked curvilinear nucleated’ motif. The county of Sonoma has witnessed not just these different tribes setting their base here, but also others like Europeans, especially Spaniards coming and settling on the gentle shores of Sonoma. The years between the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries had the Europeans traveling to these shores in search for timber etc.
If one is to go back year by year and century by century into Sonoma County’s past then it will come to surface that the county has been under the authority and control of various countries. In fact; in all, six nations have laid their supremacy over this county. The first were the Spaniards, who claimed the area in the mid sixteenth century, around 1542 to be more precise. After that, the county changed hands with the Kingdom of England, which had signaled a sea voyage on the Golden Hind under the expert command of the famous Captain Drake. Once again after this, the county passed onto the rule of the Spanish Empire. It was only until Mexico became free that the county area came under the supreme authority and control of the Russian Empire. After this, Sonoma was taken over by the First Mexican Empire, for two years, and then by Mexican Republic. For a very short while, that is from June to July, Sonoma was under the California Republic. It was only on 9 July 1846 that the county of Sonoma was finally under the United States of America. And from then till now, it has been under USA only. Thus it can be seen that the county had shifted hands with a lot of varied cultures and different societies. As a result, the character of the cities has been molded as per the exposure it received. What a tourist will find here is the combination off all these customs… But the first people who deserve the credit for settling base here permanently were the Russians, who came here and set up a company named the Russian-American Company. This brought in its wake thousands of other people, settlers and travelers. The company was set up in the Fort Ross area of the county and is till date visited by a lot of tourists. Anyone looking for a date with this dazzling county’s history has to pay a visit to this old company. It has to be mentioned that the county has seen more than its fair share of battles; it was the home ground during the famous Bear Flag Revolt between the locals and the Mexicans.
When it comes to wine, the county has to its credit past that dates back to the 1800’s. The Sonoma wine region produces some of the most delectable wines through the numerous vineyards that dot t he landscape of the county. Some of its most well known appellations are Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma Coast and Valley, Knights Valley etc.
Places of interest
Sonoma County is a mesmerizing blend of nature’s beauty. As mentioned before, the milieu of rolling hills, impressive mountains, green fields, lush green vineyards can take anyone’s breath away! Sonoma County is a traveler’s paradise; you can choose to walk through the picturesque landscape and relish the scenic atmosphere.
There are a whole lot of fun things to do, once you get you feet into the county. From beaches to bike trails, Sonoma lays it all-out for the hungry traveler. Beach bums can enjoy themselves at the various beaches that dot the county area. With the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean lapping on the sandy shores, the Sonoma Coast State Beach is a wonderful place to be! With over seventeen miles of shoreline area, the beach offers, tantalizing glimpses of the setting sun and the whole ambience around. Sit back, laze around, dip yourself in the cool waters or just sunbathe while reading the book, there are ample of choices you can make. The beach-scape is made up of sandy beach area sporadically cutting across the jagged rock-strewn seashore. The beach area is perfect for those who relish the rush of adrenaline pumping in their veins. Once here, you can opt for many beachside/water activities that will definitely provide you with the much needed thrill. Besides this, the county has various other beaches, – Goat Rock Beach, Arched Rock Beach and Gleason Beach. They provide for numerous fun filled experiences and are a must if you enjoy the feel of water threading through your feet! Few other beaches are Pinnacle Gulch and the Doran Regional Park. Talking about these, the county is not just blessed with beautiful beaches, but also bays and lakes. Some of the most visited and loved ones are Bodega Bay, Lake Sonoma and Tolay Lake. The Bay of Bodega is a small cove area situated near San Francisco and Santa Rosa. Known for being somewhat rocky, it offers interesting opportunities for indulging in some sports. The bay gives way to few other water bodies like the Tomales Bay, Estero Americano etc. Lake Sonoma graces the northern part of the Sonoma County and as such is most visited for its activity possibilities. Leisure time and Sonoma are somewhat synonymous once you reach here. Those traveling with kids, can actually have an amazing session of sheer amusement and merrymaking and not to forget great time bonding with t he family as they move onto camping and hiking in this serene and gorgeous area. A trip to this side of the county is wasted if you don’t go for water sports/activities like swimming, boating and fishing. There is nothing more wonderful than baiting your favorite fish as you patiently sit and drink in the wonderful surroundings. Undoubtedly, it creates a fetching picture. You can also sign up for activities like hunting and have a good time trampling around the green side of the lake! Besides this, Lake Sonoma also offers its visitors the pleasure of checking out Milt Brandt Visitor Centre and the Warm Springs Recreation Area. The area also has its own dam, famously known as the Warm Springs Dam, and as such turns out to be quite an educational yet fun.
If fresh water lakes are more your style, then head towards the Tolay Lake. Diametrically opposite to Lake Sonoma, this is huddled in the southern part of the county, in the Sonoma Mountains. The area is famous for the Tolay Lake Regional Park. The park is an ecological preserve and is a sure shot must visit! Once here, be prepared to be dazzled with the impressive varieties of endangered species. Nature lovers are sure to have amazing time as they indulge in watching rarest of the rare animal species lie the California red-legged frog, Western pond turtle, Golden eagles,; and Western burrowing owl to name a few.
If nature is what you love then Quarryhill Botanical Garden, Luther Burbank Home and Gardens and Jack London State Historic Park should top your must-visit list! Acres and acres of foliage so rich in color and so distinct in shape and texture, anyone will be amazed! Luther Burbank Home and Gardens is a state historical landmark and is known to house the grave of the famous agriculturist Luther Burbank. Situated in Santa Rosa, the city park has an impressive line up fauna in its garden and greenhouse- be it ornamental trees or herbs having medicinal value, the place has them all. Come here to gaze at hundreds of varieties of cactus and roses et al!
The county also has The Quarryhill Botanical Garden which is a research house of one of the largest compilation of moderate Asian plants in North America. It is absolutely spectacular in its appeal and is sure to leave you stunned with its collection! Holboellia coriacea, Acer pentaphyllum, Cornus capitata, all find home here in this wonderful place. Plants and seeds from all over the world can be found here, you name it and they have it! Be it India, China, Kuwait, Korea or Nepal. Yet another ‘green area’ which merits description is the Jack London State Historic Park. Also a national historic landmark, it has the Jack London home in it which is fondly referred to as the Wolf House. Though now in ruins it is still quite an imposing structure!
The county of Sonoma also has a historic ranch house to its credit! The Rancho Petaluma Adobe is an architectural pleasure and offers lots of opportunities to click pictures!!!
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