Bay Nature magazineSpring 2010


Resources for Learning More About the Delta

April 1, 2010

Are you interested in learning more about the Delta or in exploring it further? Following is an extensive–but by no means complete–listing of resources on the Delta’s ecosystem, recreational opportunities in the Delta, organizations that are working to restore and protect it, and the political processes that are shaping its future. If you are aware of any resources that are missing from this list, don’t hesitate to let us know by emailing

Jump to: Conservation and Advocacy | Recreation | Learn More

Conservation and Advocacy

American Rivers

American Rivers protects and restores America’s rivers for the benefit of people and nature. Through its Central Valley Flood Management Planning Program, AR is developing a plan to simultaneously reduce flood risk and help restore the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers by reconnecting them to their floodplains.

Audubon California

Audubon California brings people together to appreciate, enjoy, and protect birds and nature through conservation, advocacy, and community involvement. Its website includes information on the importance of migratory bird habitat in the Delta.

Bay-Delta Conservation Plan or About the BDCP process

Guided by a steering committee of local water agencies, environmental and conservation organizations, state and federal agencies, members of the public, and other interest groups, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is an effort to promote the recovery of endangered, threatened, and sensitive fish and wildlife species and their habitats in the Delta in order to ensure regulatory approval for continued water supplies to agricultural interests and urban users.

The Bay Institute, or their Delta Vision page

Building on The Bay Institute’s original, core mission of using research and advocacy to secure increased freshwater flows to SF Bay, the Rivers and Delta program is designed to protect the estuary’s endangered aquatic species, restore a healthy estuarine ecosystem, reconnect the estuary to its watershed, stop agricultural water pollution, and measure how the ecosystem is responding to human activities. Included on the website are several Delta Vision strategic planning publications.


BayKeeper, which has been a watchdog of water quality in the entire San Francisco Bay-Delta watershed, has developed a DeltaKeeper project focused on reducing agricultural pollution, cleaning up Central Valley dairies, controlling development in the Delta, and protecting California’s salmon and the Delta smelt.

CALFED Bay-Delta Program

The CALFED Bay-Delta Program is a collaboration among 25 state and federal agencies to improve the quality and reliability of California’s water supplies while restoring the Bay-Delta ecosystem. Its website includes information about Delta species of concern, a library of program documents, a meeting and seminar calendar, an extensive Science Program section, and a downloadable report, The State of Bay-Delta Science 2008: Summary for Policymakers and the Public. Also included on the website is information about the upcoming CALFED-sponsored 6th Biennial Bay-Delta Science Conference, “Ecosystem Sustainability: Focusing Science on Managing California’s Water Future,” in Sacramento on September 27-29, 2010.

California Department of Fish and Game, Bay-Delta Region

This state agency maintains native fish, wildlife, plant species, and natural communities for their intrinsic and ecological value and their benefits to people. Its website offers species status sheets, management documents, and hunting and fishing information.

California Department of Water Resources, Interagency Ecological Program

This state agency program provides information on the factors that affect ecological resources in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Estuary to facilitate more efficient management of the estuary. The “Press Room” on the website includes an extensive archive of Delta photos.

California League of Conservation Voters

The California League of Conservation Voters is the non-partisan political action arm of California’s environmental movement, offering voter education, electoral campaigns, local election activities, legislative advocacy, and its “California Environmental Scorecard,” which tracks the votes of all state lawmakers.

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance

This fisheries protection-focused alliance of sportfishing groups has a Delta Issues web page that provides news and alerts about issues affecting fish populations in the Delta.

Center for Biological Diversity

The Center is working to secure Endangered Species Act protections for numerous native Delta fish, including delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon, Sacramento splittail, Central Valley steelhead trout, and Pacific lamprey.

Center for Collaborative Policy

This unit of the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies at California State University, Sacramento, has provided facilitation and strategic planning services to the California Bay-Delta Authority Project (CALFED) collaborative effort since 1995.

Contra Costa Resource Conservation District

This non-regulatory agency partners with the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service to provide an organized means for land managers and local community members to carry out voluntary, cooperative conservation programs that promote the sustainable and productive use of natural resources throughout the county.

Delta Protection Commission

Created by the Delta Protection Act of 1992, the Delta Protection Commission works to ensure orderly, balanced conservation and development of Delta land resources along with improved flood protection. The commission’s informative website includes maps, an electronic newsletter, updates on current Delta projects, inventories of recreational opportunities, and a link to the US Army Corps of Engineers’ monthly “Delta News.”

Delta Vision

This website is a complete archive of all activities and reports of the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Delta Vision Stakeholder Coordination Group, and the Delta Vision Committee, established by executive order of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to develop a vision for sustainable management of the Delta and a strategic implementation plan.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF): Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta project

EDF works to solve environmental problems through science, advocacy, economic incentives, partnerships, and legal action; its Delta project web pages present recommendations for protecting the Bay-Delta ecosystem and an active blog on Delta/water issues.

Environmental Water Caucus

The Environmental Water Caucus, a coalition of 27 fishing, public health, conservation, environmental justice, and tribal organizations, works to restore ecological health, improve water quality, and protect public trust in central California’s watersheds and has produced the report, “California Water Solutions Now” (August, 2009), available both in print and as a download from the organization’s website. (An updated edition of the report will be available on April 15, 2010.)

Friends of the Great California Delta Trail

The Friends is a community group seeking to raise awareness and support for completion of the Great California Delta Trail, created by a state senate bill passed in 2006 and envisioned as a continuous recreational corridor from Martinez to Sacramento linking natural and man-made Delta features and providing many types of recreational and educational opportunities.

Friends of the River

Friends of the River, an organization focused on saving and restoring the free-flowing rivers of California, has devoted a section of its website to the 2009/2010 water legislation.

The Nature Conservancy–Delta page

The Nature Conservancy has protected and restored nearly 25,000 acres of wildlife habitat in the Delta (including Cosumnes Preserve), manages a wildlife-friendly farm operation next to the Cosumnes and Mokelumne rivers, has been deeply engaged in Delta planning efforts and studies, and recently completed an independent study of the Delta using its Conservation by Design process.

North Delta Conservancy

This nonprofit land trust in the northern Sacramento River Delta region works to conserve, sustain, and enhance the cultural, agricultural, recreational, wildlife, and natural habitat resources of the River Delta region through five programs: conservation leases and easements; education outreach; and its Wood Duck Nesting Box, Egg Rescue, and Upland Game/Native Grasses projects.

Natural Heritage Institute

Through projects designed to restore tidal wetlands, physically rebuild subsided Delta islands, and address problems associated with rapid urban development in the Delta region, the nonprofit Natural Heritage Institute is working to restore and protect the natural functions that support water-dependent ecosystems.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) / Barry Nelson’s Blog

The director of the California Vision Project for NRDC’s Water Program blogs about current water issues, frequently focusing on the Delta region.

Pacific Institute, or their More with Less report

The Oakland-based Pacific Institute conducts water-related interdisciplinary research to advance environmental protection, economic development, and social equity both locally and internationally. The Institute published a 2008 report on agricultural water use efficiency in the Delta, “More with Less: Agricultural Water Conservation and Efficiency in California: A Special Focus on the Delta.”

Planning and Conservation League

The PCL is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit lobbying organization working at the state government level to protect and restore the California environment. Its Water Projects program is focused on developing and implementing sustainable water policies in the Delta region and throughout the state.

Restore the Delta

Restore the Delta is a Stockton-based grassroots campaign that seeks to strengthen the health of the estuary and the well-being of Delta communities through public education, outreach, and advocacy with water agencies and other public entities. The organization’s “Delta Flows” enewsletter is a source of information about Delta-related political developments.

San Francisco Bay-Delta Science Consortium

This consortium works to increase coordination and collaboration among all parties involved in Bay-Delta science. Its website includes the Bay Delta and Tributaries Project (environmental data, contributed by over 50 organizations, concerning the San Francisco Bay-Delta), an online newsletter, an online peer-reviewed scientific journal (San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science), a listing of educational opportunities for children and adults, and the San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Archive, which provides electronic access to legacy documents, including historical accounts and surveys; project, planning, and strategic reports; and non-peer-reviewed environmental information resources.

San Francisco Estuary Partnership

Comprised of representatives from federal and state agencies, local governments, environmental groups, business and industry, academia, and the public, the San Francisco Estuary Partnership implements its Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan to restore and protect the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary.

Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, community gardens, historic sites, rural lands, and other natural places. It owns 4,450-acre Liberty Island in the North Delta; the property is the potential centerpiece of a proposed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuge.

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60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Sacramento
by Jordan Summers, Menasha Ridge Press, 2008.
This guide to day hikes within an hour’s drive of Sacramento includes a few in the Delta area.

Delta Wines: Wine Adventure Guide
by Barbara Sederquist, California Wine Magazine, 2008.
This guide includes maps and information on 53 Delta region wineries as well as geology and geography features that make the Delta special and information on the area’s towns and cities.

Sacramento Valley Fishing Paradise
by Ray Rychnovsky, Frank Amato Publications, 2004.
Covering the Sacramento River and its tributaries and lakes up to an elevation of 2,000 feet, this detailed guide explains when, where, and how to catch each major game fish in the region and includes a chapter on Delta fishing.

Top Trails: Sacramento: Must-Do Hikes for Everyone
by Steve Evans, Wilderness Press, 2007.
Details 43 one- to ten-mile-long hikes within two hours of Sacramento, a few in the Delta region.

California Delta Chambers and Visitor’s Bureau

Provides information on Delta area boating, restaurants, fishing, golf, lodging, rentals, camping, museums, and more, plus a calendar of local events, weekly fishing reports, and Delta history information.

Cosumnes River Preserve

With a focus on restoration, education, and recreation, this preserve in the northeastern part of the Delta is not only the finest remaining example of California’s valley oak woodland and riparian forest habitats but also a living demonstration that human uses can be compatible with the natural Delta environment. A Visitor Center, birdwatching opportunities, restoration activities for volunteers, and self-guided walks provide educational nature experiences for visitors to the preserve.

Delta Discovery Cruises

Offers a variety of public and private Delta cruises throughout the year, including several educational eco-trips in cooperation with East Bay Regional Parks.

Delta Ecotours

Offers natural and cultural history tours of the central and northern Delta throughout the spring, summer, and fall, aboard the Tule Queen.

Dolphin Charters

Offers small boat natural history and photography cruises in San Francisco Bay, San Pablo Bay, and the Delta; Delta trips run primarily during the migratory bird season (Oct, Nov, Feb, March, April).

Recreation Atlas for the Delta

Produced by the state Delta Protection Commission, this series of maps of Delta region recreational facilities includes everything from boat launch facilities, camping sites, and duck clubs to trails and windsurfing areas.

Recreational Access–Public Parks

Contra Costa County

Antioch-Oakley Regional Shoreline: fishing, kite flying, picnicking

Big Break Regional Shoreline: birdwatching, boating, fishing, hiking

Franks Tract State Recreation Area: birdwatching, boating, fishing, hunting

Point Edith State Wildlife Area: access by boat only; hunting, wildlife viewing

Rhode Island State Wildlife Area: access by boat only; fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing

Sacramento County

Brannan Island State Recreation Area: birdwatching, boating, fishing, hiking, picnicking, swimming, windsurfing

Cliffhouse Fishing Access: fishing, windsurfing

Delta Meadows: boating, wildlife viewing

Georgiana Slough Fishing Access: boating, fishing, picnicking

Hogback Island Access: picnicking, boating, fishing

Sherman Island Public Access Facility: boating, fishing, kiteboarding, windsurfing

San Joaquin County

Dos Reis Regional Park: boating, camping, picnicking

Mossdale Crossing Regional Park: boating, picnicking

Westgate Landing Regional Park: boating, camping, fishing, picnicking

White Slough Wildlife Area: fishing, hiking, hunting, wildlife viewing

Woodbridge Ecological Reserve: wildlife viewing

Solano County

Grizzly Island Wildlife Area: boating, fishing, hiking, hunting, wildlife viewing

Hill Slough Wildlife Area: wildlife viewing

Miner Slough Wildlife Area: access by boat only; fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing

Peytonia Slough Ecological Reserve: boating, fishing, hiking. wildlife viewing

Sandy Beach Park: boating, bicycling, camping, hiking, picnicking, windsurfing

Yolo County

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area: hunting, wildlife viewing

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Learn More

Books, Articles, and Websites

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, revised edition
by Marc Reisner, Penguin Books, 1993.
Nearly 25 years after its initial publication, this is still the definitive history of water politics and development in the western US.

The California Delta (Images of America series)
by Carol A. Jensen, Hal Schell Archives, and the East Contra Costa Historical Society, Arcadia Publishing, 2007.
Vintage images from local museums, private collections, and the archives of Hal Schell capture the romance and reality of life–natural resources, agriculture, recreation, and more–in the Delta region.

Delta Primer: A Field Guide to the California Delta
by Jane Wolff, William Stout Publishers, 2003.
This book, and a separate deck of narrative playing cards, presents an original take on the story of the land and water in the Delta region through images, historical data, and an intricate mapping system. Available through

The Great Thirst: Californians and Water–A History, revised edition
by Norris Hundley, Jr., UC Press, 2001.
An in-depth history of water use in California, from aboriginal times to the turn of the 21st century, that provides the essential background for understanding current Delta water issues.

Levee Failures in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta

This brief summary describes state initiatives to define the risk of Delta levee failures and reduce their impact by improving physical systems and emergency response.

Natural Resources Defense Council Position Paper:
Fish Out of Water: How Water Management in the Bay-Delta Threatens the Future of California’s Salmon Fishery

This July 2008 position paper examines the operation of water management projects in the state as one of the most significant causes of the salmon fishery collapse and provides comprehensive policy recommendations for restoring and sustaining this resource.

Public Policy Institute of California
PPIC Publication list

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research. The following influential Delta-related research documents are available on the PPIC website’s publications page:

Envisioning Futures for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

This report provides a comprehensive, scientifically up-to-date analysis of current Delta problems and outlines several alternative management strategies.

Comparing Futures for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

This report compares the costs and benefits of different ways–including a peripheral canal–of addressing the state-mandated twin policy goals for the Delta: reviving a threatened ecosystem and ensuring a reliable, high-quality water supply for California.

Fixing the Delta: How Will We Pay for It?

This report examines the question of how to pay for urgently needed investments in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta.

Work in Progress: Transitions for Delta Economy

When completed, this project will assess the potential economic outcomes for agriculture and recreational activity in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta under different flooding and water quality scenarios.

San Francisco Estuary Institute Delta Historical Ecology Program

The San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) Historical Ecology Program uses historical resources to study how the Bay Area landscape has changed since native times. The SFEI/Aquatic Science Center, in collaboration with the Department of Fish and Game, has initiated a historical ecology study of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to document patterns of variation and extent of habitats throughout the Delta. The website of the Delta Historical Ecology Study provides information from the study as it develops.

A Scientific Assessment of Alternatives for Reducing Water Management Effects on Threatened and Endangered Fishes in California’s Bay Delta
Report of the Committee on Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta; National Research Council, 2010

This National Research Council report, released in March 2010, concludes that most of the actions proposed by two federal agencies to protect endangered and threatened fish species through water diversions in the California Bay-Delta are “scientifically justified” but questions the scientific validity of the specific environmental triggers used to indicate when to reduce water diversions required by the actions.

Subsidence, Sea Level Rise, and Seismicity in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
Jeffrey Mount and Robert Twiss, San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science, 3(1), 2005.

This important 2005 study assesses the risk of levee failure in the Delta.

Water Education Foundation

The nonprofit Water Education Foundation serves as a resource for unbiased information about water issues through its publications: Western Water magazine, the biannual California Runoff Rundown report, Layperson’s Guides on a variety of water topics, and summaries of the Delta Vision workshops held in 2006-2008. The foundation also offers tours and briefings for policymakers and the interested public; and K-12 classroom programs and materials for educators. The following Delta water issue-related documents are available on the foundation’s website:

Changing the Status Quo: The 2009 Water Package
From Western Water, January/February 2010, available as download ($4) or print copy ($7 plus tax and shipping)

In-depth summary of the issues and the political process leading to the California legislature’s November 2009 passage of a package of water bills affecting the Delta.

Delta Sustainability Map
$10 plus tax and shipping

Poster (24 x 36 inches) with graphics and text explaining issues of land subsidence, levees and flooding, urbanization, fish and wildlife protection, and salinity of the Delta’s waterways.

The Delta Map
$10 plus tax and shipping

Map (36 x 24 inches) graphically depicting the importance of the Delta–what it is, where it is, and how water flows through the area.

Hands-On Educational Opportunities

Delta Science Center

Located on the Delta at Big Break in Oakley, the Delta Science Center is a collaboration among Delta-area cities, counties, public agencies, community colleges, conservation organizations, and businesses that provides hands-on field experiences and lab learning opportunities for K-12 students as well as general public education, restoration opportunities, and recreational activities.

Marine Science Institute

The Marine Science Institute provides hands-on educational activities for students from grades pre-K through 12 in three distinct programs: the Discovery Voyage program onboard its research vessel in various locations including the Delta; Shoreside programs on San Francisco Bay (in Redwood City); and Inland Voyages using trailer-mounted aquariums to bring fish, sharks, sea stars, and other live marine animals into the classroom.

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