While perusing old nature books on the reference shelves at nature centers around Portland, I tend to see the 1988 guide Cascade-Olympic Natural History by Daniel Mathews. It’s out-of-print, and Multnomah County Library has just a single copy in its entire collection, and patrons can only use it in the library. It’s no surprise then that the author’s efforts to educate folks in the Pacific Northwest about their mountainous natural environments deserve a new life some three decades later. The regional publisher Timber Press – which has previously published a series of guidebooks on PNW wildlife, insects, wildflowers, trees & shrubs, and mushrooms (as well as a new guide on birds) – has just released a new version of Mathews’ guide as Natural History of the Pacific Northwest Mountains.
Daniel Mathews, Natural History of the Pacific Northwest Mountains (Portland, OR: Timber Press, 2017), 600 pp. 800 color photos, 215 illustrations, 4 maps.
As the cover of Natural History of the Pacific Northwest Mountains indicates, this book covers the following topics: climate, plants, fungi, animals, and geology. Also included are a section on the various landscapes of the PNW and a useful glossary in the back. And each section of the field guide portion provides great general overviews and boxed text throughout covering other topics in more detail, including short biographies of relevant naturalists (as a history buff, I enjoy this!). A guide such as this is welcome, especially for trips, since one wouldn’t necessarily want to lug around all their various more-specific field guides. This guide would be perfect companion for a camping trip to Olympic National Park or hiking around Mt. Hood, or exploring at Mt. Rainier National Park or in the mountains of southwestern British Columbia.
Time will tell for the usefulness of this guide, as I use it to identify something I see when visiting my region’s mountainous landscapes (there’s always that one animal or flower you see that happens to not be included in a guide, right?). But from a leisurely stroll through its pages, Natural History of the Pacific Northwest Mountains is a beautifully-produced guide that can either find a home on one’s bookshelf or in a backpack. I look forward to having it as a resource for our nature explorations!
For those in the Portland area, you can hear from the author of Natural History of the Pacific Northwest Mountains at a OHS History Pub event at the McMenimans Kennedy School on April 24, 7-9pm.