The Salinas River meanders through the center of a long, lovely valley, sometimes ducking underground in summer, or diverting into canals to water fields that stretch away to the chiseled Santa Lucia Mountains. Memorialized by novelist John Steinbeck, and often called the salad bowl of the nation, Salinas Valley was the site of the Spanish Mission Soledad, founded in 1791. During the rancho era, vast herds of cattle waded though grasslands and later, failed gold miners founded towns like Salinas at well-traveled crossroads. Flourishing grain crops attracted the Southern Pacific Railroad, and as the shining track was laid, Chualar, Gonzales, Soledad, King City, San Lucas, San Ardo, and Bradley sprouted alongside them. Resorts like Paraiso Springs once brought visitors to the foothills, while people of many nationalities came to live and work in settlements like Greenfield, where irrigation soaks the dark, fertile loam by the sinuous river that now supports a mighty $3 billion agricultural industry.