asked a fisherman at Wimpy’s Marina,
on the Mokelumne, for directions to the
wildlife refuge at Stone Lakes, which
I knew was about 10 miles north, he
replied, “You wanna see sandhill cranes?
Just take your next left.” Sure enough, on
nearby Staten Island we were surrounded
by 5,000 sandhill cranes – all honking
and strutting and ignoring my presence.
Clouds of these giant birds were circling
overhead, yet we were miles from the
nearest official refuge. Local knowledge.
Thanks to farmers who voluntarily open
their levees and flood their fallow fields in
winter, huge flocks of sandhills from the
Arctic now stop here to rest, then stay all
winter to feed and breed. The best time to
see them is November through March.
Yes, boaters can easily spend two weeks exploring the
California Delta – different parts at different seasons, year after
year, generation after generation.
Pat Rains is BoatU.S. Magazine’s West Coast editor and the
author of guidebooks on cruising Mexico and Central America. She
and her husband John live in San Diego, and cruise from Alaska
to Panama for fun.
for a list of
pumpout stations, county
Mount Diablo rises
northwest of the
Delta, a handy landmark on the water.
Main Street in the
sleepy Gold Rush
village of Locke;
come on and set
a spell (below).