Napa Valley History


The first recorded exploration of Napa Valley was in 1823 by Padre Jose Altamira. The population of the region at the time was estimated at between 3,000 and 6,000 native people. The name 'Napa' originates from the language of the Wappo Indians and means 'the land of plenty.' During the first exploration Napa was a lush coastal valley populated by native people, deer, grizzly bear, elk and panthers.

Napa Valley Vineyard

By the 1830's farmers began settling the coastal valley drawn by the perfect growing conditions and the rich volcanic soil. California was granted state hood in 1850 the same year Napa County became one of the original state counties with Napa City as the county seat. Nathan Coombs created the first street layout of Napa City in 1848 and by the 1850's Napa was a flourishing agricultural city. The quicksilver mining companies scattered throughout the county were the backbone of society; the largest of which was on the top of Mount St. Helena. During Napa's boom steamships could be seen constantly traveling from San Francisco to Napa along the Napa River. The Napa river allowed ships to reach San Francisco in 3 hours, which was a much faster transportation option compared to the stagecoach and railroad line that ran between Vallejo and Calistoga at the very Northern edge of the county.

Napa Valley couple

Today, commercial use of the Napa River has been all but abandoned in favor of more rapid highway transportation; however, pleasure boaters still use the waterway. The railway is now used by the Napa Valley Wine Train, offering leisurely lunch and dinner trips through the length of the Valley. Most of the land in the valley is now owned and operated by wineries and vineyards which is Napa's most popular tourist attraction. Virtually all the well known wineries offer tours and tastings daily, with the most popular time for visitors being from late August through early October, the time of the grape harvest and crush.



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