The Sacramento River
Delta of California is the area in which the Sacramento River flows into the ocean via the Carniquez Straight
and the San Francisco Bay
. The San Joaquin
, Mokulumne, and Cosumnes River
s also feed directly into this delta. Like most deltas, this one consists of a large number of meandering distributaries of the rivers. However, unlike most deltas, this one is not in a large fan shape with the wide end facing the ocean. The rivers are squeezed through the coast range in the Carniquez Straight
, so the 'delta
' shape actually points upstream.
Although few people know about it, the Delta is a vital part of California. Much of the water going to the San Joaquin Valley and Los Angeles first passes through the delta. The land is extremely fertile and supports rich farmland. The area is also very important to species of wildlife, including endangered fish like the Delta Smelt. And to top it all off, it has become a very popular area for boating. Much as the four rivers converge in this delta, these four uses intermingle, but unlike the rivers' waters, the interests often do not mix well. So, the area is a somewhat politically turbulent area. Most of the actual inhabitants of the area are immigrants, especially from Mexico, who work in the fields.
Originally the area was a vast marshland of tules, with cottonwoods and sycamores growing along the river. Most of the original marshland is gone. The soil is mostly made of organic matter, and once the marsh was removed, the soil began breaking down... so the land is actually sinking. Much of it is below sea level, and at some point all of these farm fields may flood. When this happens, salt water will rush into the delta to fill the extra space. Unfortunately, this salt water will probably also find its way into the water intake of the California Aqueduct. As of now, the Delta is hanging on, supported by a complicated system of levees.