Credit: Chuck Graham

Capturing the magic of the Central Coast’s globally significant and visually stunning natural landscape is a passion and profession for Chuck Graham, who’s frequently photographed and written about adventures from the Channel Islands to the San Rafael Wilderness for this publication and many others. In 2006, he made his first trip to the Carrizo Plain National Monument, where wildflowers, kit foxes, pronghorn antelope, and California condors converge.

Nearly 15 years later and coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the landscape being named a national monument in 2000, Graham recently published an epic ode to the region called Carrizo Plain: Where the Mountains Meet the Grasslands. With 116 pages of both intimate and expansive photography, as well as essays on the plants, animals, and more, it’s a visual treat and thoughtful exploration of this special land.

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“Without a doubt, there is no other place like it in the state,” said Graham, who doesn’t know how many times he’s visited but did spend more than 45 days out there in spring 2020. “It’s the last of California’s grasslands. With patience, one can see more wildlife in the Carrizo Plain than anywhere else in the state.”

The book reminds that, like many sensitive American lands, the Carrizo Plain remains under threat even today — and not just from developers who seek to extract natural resources. Impacts also come from those who can love the region too much, as when so many descend on the plain for wildflowers. “Unfortunately, some folks are not always respectful to others, to the environment, to the place and its inhabitants,” he said. “This is true for all wild places.”

He suggests to simply “slow down” when you get there. “Bring a pair of binoculars and scan the grasslands and hillsides. Reflect on these grasslands. This is it,” said Graham. “Hopefully when people head out there for the first time, something will grab them and inspire them to protect wild places.” 

Until then, you’ve got Graham’s brilliant book to take you there.


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