There are so many beaches along the Sacramento River that I can’t begin to name them all. Heck, most of them don’t have names anyway so it wouldn’t do any good to try. Many are only exposed at low tide. Some face the morning sun for young families who need to wrap it up early. Some face the afternoon sun for a good nap and a tan. Discovery Park Beach at the confluence of the American River is packed with people in summer, but several beaches are remote enough to make you feel like you’re a million miles away from everything. The following is my list of personal favorites right now. Tomorrow, who knows?
- My favorite beach on the Sacramento River is an unnamed beach just below Sandy Beach Park near Rio Vista, CA. I call it Castaway Beach because of the lean-tos built out of driftwood and bamboo fronds. My wife would probably call it Corona Beach because being there is like being in a Corona commercial. Strangely enough, we found two Corona bottle caps in the sand after saying to each other that it was just like a Corona commercial. A photo of Cindy and I goofing off on Castaway Beach is in The Sacramento River Boating Guide on page 18. Protected from the almost constant westerly winds by 50 foot high sand dunes, this unusually large beach is only accessible by boat and is littered with driftwood. A short but very steep hike over the dunes leads to huge mysterious mounds of clamshells mixed together in the sand.
- My second favorite beach also has no name, and is about a mile above the Feather River confluence on the left (north) bank. Small on my map (page 154 in the book) but large in person, this beach has gray sand and it’s remote enough to have seen many happy campfires. As a matter of fact, it’s the remoteness of this beach that I find so attractive. Perfect around sunset when a heat wave is in full swing, this beach is shaded by tall, cooling vegetation that separates it from the farmer’s fields behind. Bring the bug spray, though. Mosquitoes love dining al fresco along the upper parts of the river.
- Third on the list is Chicory Bend City Park, just downstream from Sherwood Harbor Resort. This beach is only accessible by boat and by the few locals who are lucky enough to own homes bordering the park. Don’t let the name fool you – there are no facilities here. No BBQ pits, no water, no toilets, no kidding. The park is actually a large river bar formed at the point of Chicory Bend and is covered with enormous trees. The City of Sacramento calls the park an Open Space Preserve. Translation: Land that the city can’t afford to develop but doesn’t want to lose. To be fair, every five to ten years the park will be completely underwater, so any city improvements that aren’t washed away would have to be dug out. The beach itself is not very large and it’s steep, but it faces the afternoon sun for some very good tanning. You feel like you’re a million miles away from the city when in fact you’re just a few yards from suburban Sacramento and only four miles by boat from Old Sac.
- Number four is one more Unnamed Beach, located just across the river from Sacramento Marina’s harbor entrance. I call it The Locks. (One of these days one of my beach names has got to catch on.) Once upon a time, this beach was actually the entrance channel to the Port of Sacramento’s Navigation Locks. The locks were last used by boaters in 1987 and they were officially decommissioned in 1991. Afterward, the channel was allowed to silt in. The beach is only accessible by boat but unfortunately the sand isn’t exposed until summer is in full swing. Very easy to reach from any of the boat launches in Sacramento, it’s a fun place for kids to explore the small patch of woods behind. Caution: the river just offshore is deceptively deep and strong.
- Finally, we have Potluck Beach on the American River, located on the left (south) bank one mile upstream of the river’s junction with the Sacramento. Mostly grassy and easy to miss, Potluck Beach is the epicenter of Potluck Weekend, Sacramento’s premier on-the-water boating party. It’s not much of a swimming beach because the water is sooo cold, but it is one of the few reliable stretches of sand on the American River where you can beach a boat. It’s also deep enough for large boats to be tied to shore without their propellers hitting bottom, as demonstrated by the various groups that hold picnics here.
Those are my top five, but there are many, many more beaches along the Sacramento River that I haven’t mentioned. I’m sure everyone has their own list of favorites. One of the best parts about playing on the water is just getting out and discovering your own personal hidden paradise. Maybe while trolling the river for salmon or stripers one day, you’ll glance toward shore and wonder if that little spot of sand over there is any good. Some will be duds and some will be keepers. But happy hunting! And possibly one day we will compare notes over an afternoon beer on a stretch of sand that is magically out of the wind.