Strawberry Creek has served as an important feature of UC Berkeley’s landscape throughout history. Before the Spanish arrived in the 1700s, the Huchiun-Ohlone people lived in harmony with the Creek. The creek provided them with potable water and diverse wildlife for fishing and hunting; in return, they maintained the landscape to encourage healthy growth and production of the vegetation. Later on, during the gold rush of 1849, the land surrounding the creek was used as pastureland for cattle farmers. At this point, the creek was relatively unchanged, maintaining its original course through nature.
Around 1860, the area surrounding the creek and its watershed were chosen for the University of California campus. While the campus grounds were developed, the creek endured many changes. Reservoir and pipe networks were installed to provide water to the university. However, due to excess demand and the lack of a proper sewage system, the creek was drained of its clean water and replaced with sewage. Not realizing the damage already incurred on the creek, university planners and architects chose to fill one of the creek arteries and artificially alter the course of the streambed to accommodate buildings (specifically the Life Science Building Annex and Stephens Union). Additionally, as the canyon became more urbanized, the runoff, sedimentation levels, and flooding worsened. These problems led to severe erosion and deterioration of the creek bed—a problem that persists today.
For a more information about the Strawberry Creek’s history please read Strawberry Creek, The Making of an Urban Creek, and Restoring the Creek, by Robert Charbonneau