Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley

 

Big Break Visitors' Center

Big Break Visitors’ Center

The Big Break Regional Shoreline has a beautiful visitors center that offers exhibits, meeting space and space for an science education program. A short walk from the visitor center is a 1,200 square foot interactive map of the Delta (on the ground) that demonstrates water flow through the region.

It is part of the East Bay Regional Park District (most impressive park system in the state!).  The park has the facilities to enjoy a picnic, fish from the pier, launch a kayak or canoe, or birdwatch.

Next to the town of Oakley on the shores of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta, on Highway 4 near 160, near Antioch and Rio Vista.

New Years Day at Brannan State Park

Brannan Island SRA sign

The California State Parks are celebrating their 150th anniversary in 2014.  They are kicking off the celebratory year with 40 different hikes on New Years Day (January 1, 2014).  I went on the website to see if any of them were at a state park in the Delta. The only Delta county with a hike is Sacramento, but both hikes were in Folsom.  My curiosity was peaked: how many state parks are there in the Delta? Two. Brannan Island State Recreation Area offers day use and camping. The other park is Delta Shores and appears to be closed due to the state budget cuts.

There are 26 reviews of Brannan Island SRA on Yelp. Brannan Island is in Rio Vista in Solano County (about 30 minutes from Fairfield). Although there will not be an organized hike, the weather forecast suggests New Years Day is a good day to enjoy the park.

Brannan Island Marina

Boating on Cache Slough

On a perfect day in October we met our boat at the Bridge to Nowhere at Liberty Island. There was no wind and it was warm not hot. The migratory birds were just starting to return.  The tide was about at its high water mark for the day. We headed out into “the stairstep” on our way to look at cow pasture that will be returned to tidal wetlands and then on to Cache Slough.

Lower Yolo Ranch: future restored tidal wetlands

Lower Yolo Ranch: future restored tidal wetlands

The Cache Slough complex is a mix of hunting areas, and agriculture. Unlike the southern Delta there is still lots of vegetation, even along “project levees” (built to Army Corp standards).  It is a beautiful place for boating. It was a weekday so we did not see many fishermen. The Cache Slough also has potential for restored tidal wetlands–something the Delta has lost more than 95%. Tidal wetlands play an important role in providing habitat for Delta Smelt and other native fish and for producing food for the rest of the estuary.

Great place to canoe or kayak!

Great place to canoe or kayak!

By the time we got to Cache Slough (with many stops along the way to look at natural and man made features), the tide was receding. The sun was rising high in the sky and there was still no wind. Fantastic.

I will return to kayak or canoe here someday.

 

 

Boating in the South Delta

Somewhere in the South Delta

We launched at B&W Marina on Brannan Island Road about 10 a.m. on a beautiful weekday. There were few other boaters on the river and the sun was shining and slight breeze kept us from getting too hot.

I have to confess that I am not a boater. However, I love spending the day outdoors and anytime that you can be out in the Delta (and call it work!) is a good day. We saw other boaters stopping at a beach to swim and jet ski, others were fishing, and my fellow boaters say that sometimes they stop and swim.

Stopping to eat and drink is also a big part of the boating experience. There are a number of marinas along the way.  Take a GPS, though. The monotony of the rip-rapped levees make it so you are never sure where you are.

OMG, a tree!

OMG, a tree!

 

Dining outdoors at Union Point Marina Bar & Grill

Union Point Bar & Grill

If you are boating in the South Delta, then Union Point Marina Bar & Grill is a pleasant spot for lunch or drinks.  Recently I was in a group of 10 boating on a weekday. We stopped for lunch about 1:00 p.m. The deserted deck made us wonder if the restaurant was open. It was open and we ordered at the bar, which allowed us to pay individually. In a short time we were sitting under the awning on the deck enjoying a variety of good food.

Fish, chips and slaw

Everyone was very satisfied with my food, except me. I ordered the special ceasar salad and while the chicken was perfect, the lettuce was a little wilted and the dressing too heavy.  My friends liked the fish and chips, hamburgers, and everything else. In fact, we tried most of the menu and we enjoyed it all.

The Union Point Marina is at the southern end of Bacon Island. If you are travelling by car, it is on Highway 4 between Stockton and Discovery Bay.

Wimpy’s Marina near Staten Island

Wimpy's Marina near Staten Island

If you like onions then you’ll enjoy Wimpy’s new Brewhouse Onion Burger. I stopped for dinner the other night and enjoyed the 1/4 lb sirloin beef patty with sweet raw red onion, sauteed yellow onion and deep fried brewhouse onion rings on a toasted onion roll. No other produce fits in this big burger. The menu said “american cheese” but mine came with swiss cheese. An improvement no doubt; however, the substitution was made without warning. The fries were hot and plentiful. My view of the river Moukolumne River was lovely (sit by the window if you can). This marina restaurant is just a stone’s throw from the entrance to The Nature Conservancy’s Staten Island and a convenient place to grab a bite to eat if you are bird watching. Sandhill Cranes are in residence September-February.

Here’s my review on the Urban Spoon. http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/36/1214830/restaurant/Sacramento/Wimpys-Walnut-Grove

New Deal at the Maritime Museum

There are so many fun things to do in San Francisco that it can be overwhelming.  (Also see blog on 49 mile drive)  If you love messing around on boats and the weather is not cooperating or you have landlubbing friends you need to spend time with, then spend part of a day at Fisherman’s Wharf and walk toward Ghiradelli Square and see the Maritime Museum.

A good afternoon could start with clam chowder and sourdough bread at Fisherman’s Wharf (Boudin’s anyone?) and then a stroll through the Maritime Museum (wharf first).  As you continue west toward the Golden Gate Bridge you can see more of the Maritime Museum at the Bathhouse Building.

This building was constructed as part of the New Deal during the depression (Works Progress Administration).  The Aquatic Park Bathhouse was designed in the Streamline Moderne style to resemble an ocean liner.  The exterior and interior of the building contain many beautiful and unique works of art created by artists employed through the Federal Arts Project.  Carefully restored in 2006, you can see the mosaics on the outside by a prominent black artist Sargent Claude Johnson.  Inside you can enjoy the colorful murals by artist Hilaire Hiler.

I hope you have worked up a wee appetite because it is just a half block to Ghiradelli Square where you can indulge your sweet tooth.  (You have to try the dark chocolate with caramel, salt, and peanuts.)  There are several cafes where you can buy hot chocolate and other treats and a store with every kind of chocolate bar this fine San Francisco institution creates.