Located northeast of San Francisco Bay, this 1,000-mile network of inland waterways—which is the major carrier of drainage from the snow-capped Sierra Nevada to the east to San Francisco Bay along the coast—is a dreamland for boaters, birders, and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. Fans of watersports can rent virtually any kind of watercraft—from speedboats to sailboats to wind surfboards and jet skis. The winding waterways make for outstanding water-skiing and house boating in summer, with popular marinas in Stockton, Lodi, and Isleton.
Keep the binoculars at the ready in the fall: the Delta’s quiet waters provide major habitat for migratory birds, with some 200 species, including swans and sandhill cranes, sited at places like Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, near Elk Grove. Or, if you are looking for a guided experience, book a tour with the Sacramento Audubon Society. Fishermen also flock to the Delta to try their luck in these brackish waters, which are home to striped bass, steelhead, salmon, and sturgeon. The area is also famous for crawfish, or delta ‘dads (as in, crawdads). For a true Delta experience, visit during Isleton’s Summer Fest, when more than 6,000 pounds of the tasty crustaceans are served up every June along with zydeco and blues bands.
There’s a historical side to the appeal of the Delta too—levees protect tiny towns such as Locke, a once thriving Chinese settlement and now a fascinating glimpse at a bygone era. Indeed, the entire town was declared a historical site in 1970. Docent tours are available for groups of at least 10.