The Sacramento River near Walnut Grove.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is the most eastern segment of the San Francisco Estuary. It is an inverted delta which receives the flow of the Sacramento River system from the north and the San Joaquin River system from the south. Once a tidal marsh it now contains 700,000 acres of reclaimed land and over 1,100 miles of levees.

Reclamation started with the Gold Rush when some of the immigrants recognized the high fertility of the Delta's peat soils. The coming of the transcontinental railroad brought even more settlers to California. As the demand for grains and vegetables increased, more and more land was reclaimed and despite frequent flooding and other failures substantial profits were made. The demand for laborers was answered, initially, by Chinese immigrants and, eventually, by Japanese, Hindu, Philipino, Portugese, Italian, and Mexican people who had left their homelands in search of work.

As the Delta population increased, towns grew from riverboat landings, often with separate sections for Asians and whites. After a fire in Walnut Grove, the displaced Chinese moved to Locke, which became a totally Asian town. With the coming of autos, trucks and roads, the river traffic decreased and the river towns ceased to grow and maintained their early 20th century appearance. So along with the ethnic mix, the cultural landscape of the Delta has a decidedly unique quality. I first started photographing here in 1974 and most recently in January of 2012. The majority of the images are from 1981 and 1982.



All photos and text, copyright, D.A.Martinich