Friday, September 15 Landscape Observation Activity: The Morehead Strip

We will not meet here on September 15.  Instead, you may use that class time to work on an exercise in landscape observation.  We will be observing the Morehead Strip, which is less than 2 miles from Butte Hall. I will meet students who want to accompany me at the corner of Rose Avenue and Chico River Road at 2:10. The exercise is due at the beginning of class on Wednesday, September 20.  I will not accept any late work.  Students may do the field observation alone or in groups.  However, each student must turn in a completed project that does not duplicate the work of anyone else.  I will not accept incomplete assignments.  Follow the instructions below.

If you cannot ride with me on Friday, you should do your field observation virtually by using Google Earth Street View. Please do not drive the route or bike it alone. I do not want to upset workers or landowners.


For students who do ride with me, keep this mind: You must obey traffic laws. Do not trespass. We are guests when we leave campus. Be cordial and do not cause the stewards of the landscape to be suspicious. Also, stay out of their way.


Supplies: Field journal (Purchase a notebook that you will use only for field notes this semester).


The exercise has three purposes. One is to simply improve your observational skills. The second is to apply one of Meinig’s perspectives to landscape observation. The third is to look for similarities between Madison’s District and our District. As you observe the Morehead Strip look for items that has Madison described. Do you see drains or canals? Are there riparian corridors that have been invaded by exotic species? Are there any eucalypts? Do you see a formal avenue of trees? Residential arboreta? Evidence of earlier stages of agriculture? Livestock?


1. Go to this link in “Chico, CA”.  Click Links in the lower right-hand corner of your screen. Choose TopoZone. Now you have a topographic map of our study area. Zoom in so that your screen is filled by the strip of land bisected by Morehead Avenue, and bounded by Chico River Road and the purple line west of the end of Morehead. Print several copies of this map.  Before you print, zoom in so that you’ll have room to write. Bring these maps into the field.  You will write notes on them.

2. Print several Google Earth images of the field site.  Be sure to include both sides and full length of Marmore Road.  Zoom in before you print.

3. Before Friday, or before you go out into the field, explore this strip on Google Earth. Gather the following information about the Morehead Strip before you go into the field:

a. How long is Morehead Road? How many acres are in the strip of land between Morehead Road and Chico River Road?

          b. What is the approximate width of parcels that have houses?

            c. How many houses?

          d. What distances are houses, new and old, set back from the road?

e. What is the mathematical area, length X width, of orchards with similar-aged trees? Convert the area into acres.  Google it.

4. And, finally, observe the landscapes on both sides of Morehead Road and the northern extension of Marmore Road.

How do you observe a landscape?  You interrogate it by asking all of the questions below.

Your observations must have locations on the ground that can be transferred accurately to a map.  Hence, your field notes should include statements like the one below:

 “Walnut orchards begin .5 mile west of the intersection of Morehead and Chico River Road.”

This statement required the use of a map, odometer and/or Google Earth.  

5. Here are some questions to help guide your observations. 

For orchards, answer these sorts of questions. Your answers are field notes.

What kinds of orchards trees do you see? Where?

How tall are the trees?

How widely spaced are the rows of trees? 

Are rows of older trees interspersed with recently planted saplings?

Are strips in between rows of trees cultivated? Bare?    

Is there evidence of irrigation?  What kind of irrigation?  How widely spaced?

What hydrological features (streams, canals) are in the landscape? Where?

What equipment do you see?  Pumps? Tractors?

What kinds of buildings?  Silos?  Barns? 

Are the structures made of wood? Metal? Plastic?

What kind of fences?

For the residences:

What do the residences look like? 

Where are they?

What distance are they from the road? 

Are they surrounded by orchards?

Are they new?  Old?

Large small?

Same style? Diverse styles?

What’s the landscaping like?

On Wednesday, September 20, you will turn in a packet that contains 2 components.

1. Copies of the maps and Google Earth images that you printed and on which you wrote notes. Take your notes in the field.

2. A typed, double-spaced and edited rich description of the Morehead Strip landscape. Your description should answer the following questions: 1. What does the Morehead Strip, including Marmore Avenue, look like? 2. How is the Morehead Strip similar to, or different from, Madison’s District? ; and, 3. Which of the perspectives explained by Meinig would you use to understand the landscape of the Morehead Strip. Explain why.

Also, remember that your description should not be an itinerary or inventory.