We present a case of environmental transformation, in the Romanian Danube Delta, driven by the interplay of state power, technological intervention, geomorphological processes, and local practices. Through the presentation of a cartographic archive (1856–2017), together with participant observation and historical research, we detail the various stages of transformation in the deltaic environment and show the relative interplay of driving forces. We show that each transformation of the Delta is at the same time an imposition from without and an adaptation from within, a move of consolidation of state power and a resistance to being fully incorporated. We show how in the history of this particular environment, the main drivers of change pass from being of a geomorphological nature to being related to the use of state power. We detail three stages in the transformation of the delta, through which the conceptualization of, and interventions in, the environment, go from a borderland to be secured, to a rich exploitation ground, to an ecological marvel to be protected. We argue that this kind of analysis can be particularly relevant for the governance of protected areas.