California Delta boating

doug osborn - September 12, 2009

As a mid america born and raised individual, I have a non typical california opinion of the delta and sf bay boating experience. Namely, its boring. Not that you cant get in trouble and have excitement that way, but its just not the midwest, or east/north/south coast experience.

Water in the west is for fighting , per Mark Twain, and for such a precious commodity, it sure is treated badly. The politico's here refuse to tackle the tough issues about it, and thus it is simultaneously ignored, needed, and abused. What is surprising is that it is so vulnerable and contained in a fragile network, with huge tracts of below sealevel subsided land outside of levees.

The levees were built a hundred or more years ago, and the marshes dried up, were farmed, and subsided, and are now about 20-30 feet below the water level. It is weird boating along, looking over the ditch wall, and down into corn fields. Some the levees have broken over the years, flooding the "islands" between the levees making them lakes. The marshes now are linear along the levees, and sometimes critters burrow in there. Just mud and dirt, sometimes with a thin riprap of stone, these things will liquify in any sort of seismic shake.There is an apparent lot of water out in the rivers and channels, but this will quickly back flow dragging in salt water from the bay when they fail. All the trailers, motor homes, vehicles, gasfields, etc. in the islands will pollute the water, and this one-two punch will ruin the water for the intakes of the cities in the area.

The other disturbing thing is how abused the waterways are, with derelict boats abandoned all about and junk everywhere in the water supply. With all the tree huggers here, one would think they would come out and clean up the mess, but they dont. One can draw their own conclusions of mouth, motivation, and actions from these individuals. The lower delta gets salty, and is usually windy and cold. Its worth a trip or two, but un-courteous weekend boaters mixing with salties is always discouraging. An extremely large proportion of the watercraft here are not maintained well, and are just plain trashy. The availability of courtesy slips, restaurants, places to visit is dramatically less in the whole bay/delta area than the other United States, the one east of the rockies. Many here like to tout up the reliable weather, but it lacks the intensity and zest of the few fabulous weekends Great Lakes boaters get to enjoy. In short, its disappointing boating here.

So as you lament another lousy summer, look at the un-irrigated crops, green grass, diverse trees, sweet water horizons, sunsets/rises and clouds and realize that when its good, its magical. With the interconnected lakes and rivers, the distances and climates to traverse, and the transient nature of seasons, its truly a sport. Id rather have a week on the North Channel, than a whole season on the California Delta.