Located northeast of the San Francisco Bay, this 1,000-mile network of inland waterways—the major 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. Levees protect tiny towns like Locke, a once thriving Chinese settlement and now a fascinating glimpse at a bygone era.
Keep the binoculars handy in 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. Fisherman also flock to the Delta to try their luck in these brackish waters. The Delta’s winding waterways also make for outstanding water-skiing and house boating in summer, with popular marinas in Stockton, Lodi, and Isleton.