I’m staying at Park Delta Bay, right across the “street” from the San Joaquin River. Street is in quotations, because it’s a narrow two lane (one lane in a couple spots where it’s eroded) bumpy road that runs for miles along the top of a levee. The river is actually higher than the campground and surrounding farmland, which confused me greatly when I drove in last Saturday. Why is this here? Isn’t flooding a problem? How’d they get the water higher than the surrounding ground?
So I looked it up online. The California Delta is comprised of approximately 57 reclaimed islands (most of which are agricultural) surrounded by more than 1,000 miles of levees following 700 miles of waterways. I can hardly imagine how big an undertaking it must have been to manage this.
Historically, the delta was formed starting about 10,000 years ago when rising ocean levels slowed the flow of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, causing sediment to precipitate out inland before reaching the sea. The California Delta is an inverse delta: it was formed starting at the coast and moving inland instead of moving out to sea like a regular delta. The only other similarly sized inverse delta in the world is located in China, it’s a pretty rare phenomenon. This silting of the rivers made the water channels shallow and turned the area into a marsh, currents and flooding piled the sediment up into low islands.
After the levees were constructed to make the land safe for farming, a funny thing happened. The exposure of the rich peat soil to the air caused a lot of decomposition and the ground compacted, causing the islands to sink. This is why the waterways are higher up than the ground (well, it’s gotta make irrigating the fields easier). A good portion of the region is below sea level today, there spot I’m at is about -15 feet or so.
The reason why this area is mainly marinas and RV parks is because permanent dwellings are at risk. In 1982 a good number of islands flooded when aging levees failed during a high rainfall year, including the island this park is on. Since then there has only been one major levee failure though, which makes me feel a little safer. A lot of houses in the delta are built on stilts, like you see on oceanfront property.
Park Delta Bay itself is a nice place, it was a KOA with less than stellar reviews until about a year ago when new management took over. The sites are grassy and pretty level, all but a handful are well shaded. The nightly rate is quite reasonable for the area at $35 (full hookups), weekly and monthly rates are available and are a better deal.
The bath house has been recently renovated (a real shower again, yes!), and the clubhouse has all sorts of amusements. Summer is the busy season and all the resorts and parks here along the Delta Loop fill up with families on vacation, but while school is in session it’s quieter and aside from the cabins has been at half capacity or less since I arrived. I’m okay with this.
There are no river views from the campsites, nor will you find water views at any of the campgrounds in the area since they’re all on the other side of the levees. But it’s a short walk to get to the water and Delta Bay has a marina associated with it with a little general store and a dock you can sit out on. I got this sunset picture Wednesday evening along with a video of some sort of aquatic mammal coming up for air in the river. It’s a very relaxing place.
There are plenty of attractions in the area: two recreation areas nearby, boat rental places, numerous vineyards and orchards that offer tours (you can make a day trip and still not hit them all), museums, and of course fishing opportunities. There are several towns and cities within a close drive and Sacramento is about 50 minutes away.
I’m unlikely to get to see any of that, but that’s okay. This will be a calm yet scenic place to introduce my new travel partner to the RV, as free boondocking in the area is nonexistent. To that effect, I made an arrangement with the owner and am work-camping 15 hours a week in exchange for my site for about another week which will give her time to settle in . Have a good weekend everyone!
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