About Chris

(Photo by Nina)

Chris Clarke is a natural history and environmental writer, an editor and photographer.

Born in Upstate New York in the very early 1960s, Chris moved to the West Coast in 1982. He spent much of the 1980s pursuing an interest in botany and horticulture, working in nurseries and on landscaping crews in the San Francisco Bay Area and in the environs of Washington, DC.

Chris began writing professionally in 1989 for Terrain, a small non-profit monthly environmental publication in Berkeley, CA. He took over the editor’s post there in 1992. By the time he left in 1997 Terrain had acquired a reputation for incisive, intelligent, and iconoclastic writing. Chris has since worked for a number of environmental news publications in print, online and radio, most prominent among them the Earth Island Journal. He’s also been a nationally syndicated garden writer with the Knight Ridder chain, his column generally appearing under the heading “The Irascible Gardener.” His resume is here.

Chris’ writing has appeared in publications ranging from Camas and Orion to Bay Nature, California Wild, the New Internationalist, Berkeley Insider and the East Bay Monthly, and about thirty daily papers nationwide.

It was in the mid-1990s that Chris’ fondness for the desert southwest, nascent since he first visited as an adult in the early 80s, blossomed into an obsession. He’s traveled extensively in the Mojave, Great Basin and Sonoran deserts, as well as in the steppes and slickrock country of the Colorado Plateau. His aridland obsession notwithstanding, Chris also bears a great fondness for more well-watered landscapes, the mountains of coastal and northern California and the Sierra Nevada in particular.

In 2003 Chris launched his first blog, Creek Running North, which over the next five years won acclaim from a wide range of readers in the science, political, essayist, and pet-owner blogging communities. His writing there was frequently called the best on the Internet. In 2008 Chris left the Bay Area, closed Creek Running North after a five-year run, and moved to the Mojave Desert. His current blog, Coyote Crossing, was begun after a few months in the desert. He now lives in Joshua Tree, California.

Chris is currently working on a book on Joshua trees, which will be based on over a decade of research.

18 thoughts on “About Chris

  1. Elena Gellert

    Chris, this is Elena, from Reserve and Luna, New Mexico. So glad to find a way to connect with you again, thanks to an article on Rewire about the San Augustine Plains water fight. As dry as New Mexico always is, water is becoming frightening scarce, and I would say there is NO recharge occurring in the aquifer. Anyway, your witch is calling and would love to hear from you.

  2. Elena Gellert

    Chris, this is Elena. Ye gods, I wish I could talk to you. So, this is important – I will be in Indio, which I think is just a hop, skip, and a jump from where you are, this month, around the 22nd of April. Any chance we can visit? Please get back to me! I miss you horribly, as well.

  3. David Ward

    Greetings Chris,

    I’ve noticed you regularly report on issues related to wind power. While I appreciate your interest on this issue, I have some concerns with the information you are using to support your reports.

    I was wondering if you’d be interested in setting up a phone call sometime next week to discuss your coverage and answer any questions you may have about wind power. Would you be interested in this?

    Looking forward to your response.

    Have a happy 4th of July,


  4. donald mcpherson

    I live in oakland Ca and read every piece Chris wrote for Terrain. I remeber when he left I sort of stopped reading the magazine because it was honstly about the only thing I read in it. I remeber he wrote interesting articles on many topics. I am glad I found this. I’ll check it out and maybe donate to help it along.

  5. Steven Lawrence

    Dear Chris,
    I am sorry it took so long to find your writing. I am a native of Los Angeles (born 1951) and currently live in Seattle. The Mojave Desert is one of my favorite places. I do not want the Mojave to become another Eastern Washington. There is very little natural desert left here… the result of course of that exotic river that runs through it. I have been to meetings of ONDA and opposed wind farms for Eastern Oregon but everyone looks at me funny. I do not want the desert used for energy development. I want energy developed only where it is used. That may be naive but that is what I want. I am retiring next June and will be spending time in the Mojave. Perhaps we may meet some day.


  6. parliamentofideasJohn Graves

    Hi Chris,
    I have been following your articles on avian mortality. Glad to see the newest work on solar kills.
    I am writing my third book, this time on the wind industry. I’d love the opportunity to speak with you.
    Let me know via email if we can talk!
    Thank you.

  7. Joseph Furnish

    Chris, I commend you on your series of informative articles on the environment. I have a comment on your article pointing out the importance of flooded floodplains for Chinook rearing habitat. An article appeared back in 2008 by Matt Weiser of the Sacramento Bee and here is an excerpt regarding the outstanding importance of chironomid midges as food for salmon rearing in the flooded fields: “Ted Sommer, a senior environmental scientist at the state Department of Water Resources, discovered about eight years ago that juvenile chinook salmon grow faster and fatter when the bypass floods. This vast flood corridor between Sacramento and Davis seemed to be an important feeding area for salmon – when floods allow them to swim into it. “They grew like gangbusters, often twice as fast as fish that stayed out in the river,” he said. But nobody knew what the salmon were feasting on or where the food came from.
    To answer that question, Sommer put an intern on the trail. Gina Benigno, then a recent UC Berkeley biology graduate, spent the winter of 2004-2005 taking samples in the bypass: water from ponds, water flowing into the bypass from creeks and drains, and the soil itself. The dirt went into big plastic bins in a lab at UC Davis. She flooded the dirt with water and covered the bins with screens. And then she waited.
    Within a few days, insect larvae hatched in the water and the bins were buzzing with adult flies. Sommer and Benigno couldn’t identify them, so they sat down with Peter Cranston, an entomology professor at UC Davis. It took Cranston only minutes of squinting through a microscope to provide an answer. And it was he who came away most surprised.
    Cranston is one of the world’s leading experts on chironomids, a family of gnatlike, non-biting aquatic flies also known as midges. He travels the world hunting for new chironomids, but never expected to find one in his own backyard. He and Benigno co-authored a paper last year identifying the bugs from the Yolo Bypass as a new species.”
    As an aquatic entomologist who has studied midges for many years, I couldn’t help but point out their importance, perhaps much more so than the cladocerans mentioned in the article, but I will seek further information.

  8. Joe Zarki


    I am writing on a book about the history of Joshua Tree National Park (for Arcadia Publishing) and recently read your article on how and when the Joshua Tree got its name. Great stuff. This is a subject that I was concerned with when I worked as an interpretive ranger at Joshua Tree National Park, and I’d like to make contact with you to discuss this further if possible. I’m kind of a luddite when it comes to social media (I still think email is hot stuff) so i don’t want my contact information to appear here since I’d rather communicate with you one-on-one if possible.

    Anyway, I hope that we can connect to talk about topics of mutual interest.

    Joe Zarki
    retired Chief of Interpretation
    Joshua Tree National Park

  9. Sarita

    I just read your article on KCET from July 16th 2013. I was wondering if you have any more updates for the Eagle Mountain region? Do you know who currently owns the actual land/city?
    Sarita Callender

  10. Chris Clarke Post author

    I just read your article on KCET from July 16th 2013. I was wondering if you have any more updates for the Eagle Mountain region? Do you know who currently owns the actual land/city?
    Sarita Callender

    I haven’t tracked the issues there closely in the last few months. I know NPCA is paying attention.

  11. Carlos gallinger

    Chris I just found your website it’s pretty cool I’ve written an article about the Joshua tree that you might find interesting you can find it out on my website thewayofthings.org

  12. Karen Hileman

    I’m attempting to determine the name of a cactus in my home. I was moving it from our porch into our sunroom and was pricked by one of the thorns. After just 1 day, my hand became very sore and swollen. I went into the doctor and was prescribed an antibiotic. I wanted to learn more about the cactus, but have no idea of the appropriate search term to use. I’d be glad to email you a photo of the beast, so you could possibly help identify it.

  13. Joel F.

    Chris, I recently read your piece on KCET, “California is First State to Ban Lead Ammo in Hunters’ Guns.” It was quite informative. I am a 3rd year law student at the University of Arizona and a member of the Arizona Journal of Environmental Law and Policy. I am writing a Comment on lead ammunition, and whether more states should follow CA’s example. I would love a chance to ask you a few questions about the above-mentioned piece. Thanks.

    – Joel F.

  14. miriam seger

    Hello Chris.
    I’m 50-50 Joshua Tree and LA, have worked on wildlife protection in both places. Kim Stringfellow suggested that I contact you regarding an LA issue involving P22 mountain lion habitat and an aggressive legacy campaign by one LA City Council Member to create an extremely invasive tourism destination…atop a critical wildlife linkage. It’s an interesting story involving LADWP, Rec and Parks, LA City, and it highlights the issue of ecosystems pressured by the pervasive desire for expansion.
    I’d also like to offer you a seat for a luncheon with Sen. Diane Feinstein this Thurs. Nov. 6 at Whitewater Preserve, hosted by The Wildlands Conservancy.
    Thank you for your wonderful posts, and I hope that you’ll be doing more readings in JT soon.

  15. Greta

    Chris, I quit FB but don’t want to lose touch with you. Just subscribed to your work on Beacon, but also want to extend a permanent welcome to visit us in Tucson. Email me? Greta

  16. scott b. davis

    chris, i recently saw your post on kcet about the hunt for the westernmost saguaro. i’ve been on the same quest for about 10 years now, having found many of the same references that you mentioned. on christmas day in 2011 the quest was over, having spotted one through binoculars. it took me another year and a couple of trips to meet the saguaro face to face, and i’ve since located another (on the flats, a ways from the palo verde mountains). am happy to share more about my quest with you via email.

    thanks for the wonderful stories!


  17. Rev. Marianne J. Grano

    Chris, I was wondering if you have done any research on the Biblical basis for the name Joshua tree. As a Christian pastor, I have been trying to figure out exactly what Biblical passage they were even referring to. Unless it’s in the Book of Mormon or one of the Mormon Scriptures, I simply can’t find it. Joshua’s most famous prayer is for the sun to stand still in Joshua 10, but that passage says nothing about hands being lifted in prayer. In Exodus 17, there’s an interesting passage where Moses is praying for the Israelite army (led by Joshua.) When Moses lifts his hands, Israel wins; when his hands fall, Israel begins to lose. Helpers eventually prop up Moses’s hands, and then place rocks under them until Israel wins the battle. But it’s Moses, not Joshua, whose hands are lifted in prayer. Just another interesting point to add to the name discussion. Please let me know if you have any information on this. Thanks, Marianne