California Delta

california-delta-1Really I had no idea what to expect when I got here, I just selected it for the convenient distance from where the visit was going to take place. As it turns out, it’s a pretty cool and unique place.

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?

Hard to tell from photos, but trust me the river is higher than the field across the road

Hard to tell from photos, but trust me the river is higher than the field across the road

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.

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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.

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Mt. Diablo behind the San Joaquin River

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.

Marina adjacent the campground

Marina adjacent the campground

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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32 Responses to California Delta

  1. Pamelab April 30, 2016 at 12:02 am #

    Best time getting to know your little Piper. Pretty area for you and you worked out how to get some free camping.
    When I was checking on some less expensive camping in the Estero, FL area, I was surprised to find no dry camping and the camp grounds are very expensive. I guess I won’t stay there long.
    Thanks for your very nice blog, Becky .
    Happy trails. Looking forward to hearing about your new adventures – with a little pet.
    Pamelab in Houston

    • Becky April 30, 2016 at 9:43 am #

      You’ll find that destination/tourist areas very seldom have free camping, I believe the panhandle of Florida has cheaper, possibly free options (it’s not as built up and land isn’t at such a premium). Good luck Pamela, and thanks. 🙂

  2. Norm H. April 30, 2016 at 5:08 am #

    Enjoyed your post as we lived and worked in the Sacramento area for over 30 years. The Delta is, indeed, a fascinating place. It is also beautiful in spring. Enjoy your time there as you bond with your new fur buddy. Happy tails to you. 🙂

    • Becky April 30, 2016 at 9:45 am #

      The flowers (they’re probably considered weeds) growing alongside the road make for great photo opportunities as I’m sure you noticed in this post Norm, haha. I bet this would be a neat place to live and am glad you liked this article. Thanks.

  3. Rick April 30, 2016 at 5:17 am #

    Your pictures have a very nice, creative/artistic quality to them. Nicely done.

    • Becky April 30, 2016 at 9:47 am #

      I took extra care with these ones Rick, part of my work-camping duties here include getting pictures and video to go up on the park’s website. 🙂

  4. Biz Crate April 30, 2016 at 6:43 am #

    Well planned, Becky. Just enough nearby to make walks interesting for you and your new roommate – but not too much to creat unpleasant distractions. And to barter a few hours work for your space is a stroke of genius!
    I have to ask, did you have the barter worked out before you got to the Delta, or was did that opportunity present itself once you arrived? Just curious…
    Since I’m writing this on Saturday morning let me say that I hope things went well yesterday with Piper and you both had a restful night. I look forward to hearing all about it soon.

    • Becky April 30, 2016 at 9:52 am #

      This afternoon is when I get Piper Biz, but thanks and I do hope we have a restful night tonight. I think I might be too nervous to sleep, haha.

      I did not have the barter worked out before I got here, I’d helped the owner back in February with some website advice and he said I could have a couple free nights if I ever found myself in the area, that covered my meeting with Piper last weekend and if she hadn’t been “the One” I would have just left Monday morning and continued traveling.

      But he’s been looking for someone to re-write copy on the website and take videos and pictures to show guests what the area looks like and none of his other work-campers are technology inclined, so I think from the time I showed up he was hoping I’d stay longer and help. 😉

      Not many places would take a worker on short-term like this, most places want a camper for a whole season. It was a stroke of luck that our needs meshed.

  5. Jay April 30, 2016 at 10:28 am #

    Becky,
    checking in to see how you are doing and I’m glad to see that you will have Piper with you soon, I can’t wait to see your adventures together. Way to go on the campground work for your site.
    We are going camping for two weeks on the Oregon coast so I will check in to see how things are going when I can.

    The best to you and Piper. Jay

    • Becky April 30, 2016 at 6:47 pm #

      Glad you are doing well Jay, I can’t wait until I can get up to the Oregon coast, I’ve seen pictures and it looks so beautiful.

      Take care!

  6. Rene Kipp April 30, 2016 at 11:36 am #

    We live just up the road, near Sacramento, and we love the delta area. So much to do and see. We would often take the 160 freeway when visiting family in Brentwood. It’s good to know there are a few places nearby where we can take our trailer for the weekend (once we get it, LOL)… I hope you and Piper have a relaxing week getting to know each other 🙂
    Rene Kipp recently posted..Math EquationMy Profile

    • Becky April 30, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

      Thanks Rene. I could hardly have picked a better place to introduce Piper to the RV, this is a pretty area and I’m glad I had the chance to see it!

  7. Christi April 30, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

    Great post! What an interesting area. California is such a diverse state and this is one of those areas that probably gets left out in favor of the bigger tourist destinations. Thank you for introducing us to the California Delta!

    Best wishes from the Mississippi Delta!!

    • Becky April 30, 2016 at 6:51 pm #

      It sure is unique Christi, some day I’ll have to visit your delta too. 🙂

  8. pamelab April 30, 2016 at 3:51 pm #

    Did I mention the gorgeous photos you have posted here? Well, they are beautiful.

    • Becky April 30, 2016 at 6:59 pm #

      Hee, glad you like them Pamela. 🙂

  9. Jodee Gravel May 1, 2016 at 10:28 am #

    Stunning photos of a quirky little place. Flooding was an issue during the last El Nino as well, but the levees held. Great that you were able to snag a work camping gig for a week – smart!!
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Red Dirt and Heather CloudsMy Profile

    • Becky May 1, 2016 at 11:47 am #

      A lot of it was luck that the owner needed help but not for a whole season, worked out well for both of us!

  10. Steve F May 1, 2016 at 5:43 pm #

    The Delta is a very interesting area to visit with many various small towns. You should check out Locke just north of Walnut Grove up the river from you. It is the last Chinese rural town in America, with many interesting stores, saloon, ghosts, and more. It is only a little over a block long. A fun way to get there is to get to Rio Vista, take Hwy 64 north out of Rio Vista and connect to Hwy 220 east towards Walnut Grove. On this route you will take two different small 2-4 car ferries between the islands and see much of the agriculture area of the delta and along the river north of Rio Vista you are on the Sacramento ship canal where you can see some big ships cruising through inland California.

    • Becky May 2, 2016 at 9:22 am #

      I hadn’t heard of it Steve, thanks for the tip. I’m not sure if it’ll fit in with my schedule but if not this time perhaps in the future. 🙂

  11. Paul May 2, 2016 at 8:10 am #

    I really enjoy your blog 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to post your ‘adventures’.
    Good luck with Piper.

    • Becky May 2, 2016 at 9:24 am #

      Glad you’re enjoy IO Paul thanks for reading.

      So far, things with Piper are going quite well, I’ll be writing more about that tomorrow.

  12. Dawn from Camano Island May 2, 2016 at 8:19 am #

    Thank you for giving us some in-depth info about this interesting area, Becky. Your photos are gorgeous! Love those times when things come together so well for you AND the park owner–he’s very fortunate you were available. By now, you have Miss Piper with you–looking forward to more photos of that little peach. Have a great day, Becky!

    • Becky May 2, 2016 at 9:28 am #

      You’re welcome Dawn, glad you enjoyed this post and the photos. I’m very happy that this arrangement worked out.

      Piper’s doing well so far, I’ll be writing more about that tomorrow.

  13. Swankie May 2, 2016 at 10:23 am #

    Good luck with your pup. That area looks like it would be fun to explore with a kayak. Is there day parking available in the area for launching????
    Swankie recently posted..Arizona National Trail—Passage 18 Scouting Trip (April 25, 2016)My Profile

    • Becky May 2, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

      Thanks. Yes, there are pullouts along Brannan Island road and at least one public dock (probably more, just haven’t really been on the lookout for them). There’s a kayak rental place near here and I was thinking it’d be a good place for it. 🙂

  14. Rosemary Rizzo May 2, 2016 at 2:22 pm #

    Hope you have loaded up on bug spray. Mosquitos are huge
    can’t wait to hear about Piper.

    • Becky May 3, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

      There’ve been a few out in the evening but not bad. I can see where this would be a prime area for them though Rosemary and I bet in another month or so it won’t be a fun place to be.

  15. Tina May 2, 2016 at 8:05 pm #

    Hey Becky,

    Love reading your view of the area. I take 160 on the way to Sacramento all the time, really a nice drive. Enjoy your time in the area.

    I was waving back at you as you drove to get Piper 🙂 LOL

    Take care,

    Tina

    • Becky May 3, 2016 at 1:25 pm #

      Haha, thanks Tina. Glad you enjoyed this post. People here in the park were telling me that 160 is a beautiful drive, I’m going to take it if I can. 🙂

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