IN SEPTEMBER, THE KING SALMON ARRIVE TO SPAWN
IN THE PRISTINE HEADLANDS OF THE SACRAMENTO
AND MOKELUMNE RIVERS
orchards, wine vineyards, and vegetable gardens. Farmers set
up market stands on Brannan Island and elsewhere to sell their
veggies, cherries, pecans, honeys, and jams – all “Delta Grown.”
Canada geese vacation here by the thousands in the fall, when
the sycamores turn to gold and the Sierra Nevada gets it first
dusting of snow.
Surrounded by such spectacular scenery, you may choose
to join a watercolor class with Martha Esch as she leads small
groups on weekly strolls atop the forested levees in Delta
Meadows River Park. Locke, with its Chinese heritage, comes
alive in the spring, summer, and fall, when it’s rich with antique
shops and beautifully restored Gold Rush buildings.
“Two weeks is not nearly enough to explore the whole
Delta,” said local boater Barbara Daly. “That’s why so many
people come back at different seasons from year to year.” Daly
provides special-interest tours up and down the Delta by land
and by boat.
The roughly triangular Delta region touches five counties and is
bounded by the towns of Antioch, Rio Vista, Sacramento, and
Stockton. Locals refer to the lower, middle, and upper Delta,
meaning depths as well as north-to-south orientation. You can
rent or charter a wide variety of boats in the Delta, ranging from
bass skiffs and ski boats to shady pontoons, posh houseboats,
and more. (Go to www.BoatUS.com/Magazine to see our listing of Boat Rentals and Charters.) And that’s a great plan for
sampling the Delta for your first time, especially the middle and
upper reaches, such as around the region known locally as the
“Delta Loop” and up to Walnut Grove and Locke. But eventually, most vacationers get there with their own boats.
If you’re towing a boat on Interstate 5, California’s north-south artery, the easiest exit is Highway 12 west toward Rio
Vista. But many side roads heading west from Stockton, Lodi,
or Sacramento get you in.
Oceangoing yachts in San Francisco can cruise upstream
through San Pablo Bay to Suisun Bay. The broad mouth of the
shallower San Joaquin River flows in from the east, but deeper-draft boats (drawing up to 10 feet) should continue north
instead, staying in the Sacramento River’s main stream.
The town of Rio Vista lies to port, and straight ahead is the
landmark Rio Vista Lift Bridge: 14 feet of vertical clearance
when down, 144 feet when up. A mile later, the main stream
of the Sacramento peels off to the east, now a much narrower