Anchoring Out

Hanging out on the hook is a big part of what California Delta boating life is about. We call it gunkholing. The California Delta has plenty of gunkholes and anchorages.  Some are legendary, such as The Meadows, Mandeville Tip, Five Fingers, Steamboat Slough, and Lost Slough.

These are unofficial anchoring places that boaters sort of adopted and gave to them these informal names. It takes a while to gain legendary status. Mildred Island is well on its way. This 1,000-acre island was just another California Delta agricultural island until a levee on its northeast end gave way June 27, 1983, and Mildred became inundated. Anglers discovered there was good striped bass fishing inside Mildred and gunkholers found some nice spots inside the island for anchoring, naturally protected from the wakes from passing boats and places where sandy low-tide beaches could be found.

A few boaters find a good spot on Mildred and stay for the summer. Pontoon-equipped ultra-light airplanes land. Waterskiers splash across the open waters. Over the Labor Day weekend every year, the Northern California Sea Ray Boat Club visits with 30 to 50 boats and anchors them in an intricate formation to form a perfect circle.

The anchoring style in the California Delta is to try to tether a bow line to a shoreside tree or bush, then drop a stern anchor a good distance out (Danforth-type anchors seem to do best). Then you pull the boat out far enough on the stern anchor line so the bow won’t be sitting on the bottom come low tide). What a good life it is.

Favorite Anchorage Spots

These are just a few favorite anchorages. There are literally hundreds of places to anchor in the Delta. After being here a while, you will find your own favorites. 

American River. Beautiful anchorages on the river’s first two or three miles, mostly on the tree-shaded south bank, which also has some nice beaches. There are snags and sandbars guarding the entrance and it is best to consult someone with local knowledge.

Disappointment Slough. Disappointment Slough is peppered with small islands, but most of them are privately owned and leased to individuals or groups. But there is a larger island fronting on the Deepwater Channel that makes an ideal anchorage for raftups of 30 or more boats.

Five Fingers.  Five Fingers. F-6. The are five dredger cuts in a small island on Middle River just north of its juncture with Connection Slough. The fingers are brush lined and provide wind and wake protection. The fingers vary in size and can accommodate quite a few anchored boats.

Hog Slough.It is located across the Deepwater Channel from Lost Isle Resort on the north side. Boats anchor along North Hog/Spud Island, which offers shade trees, wind protection and few boat wakes.

Horseshoe Bend. On the Sacramento River downstream of Threemile Slough. Boats anchor on the east side of Decker Island, which affords some wind protection and sandy beaches. Can be difficult to get anchors to hold.

Horseshoe Cove. This is a protected cove on Little Mandeville Island, free of wakes and heavy winds. It can accommodate perhaps 100 boats and it is handy to nearby waterskiing waters.

Lost Slough. A deadend slough in behind Locke and Walnut Grove. It is a tranquil anchorage favored by sailboaters. Most anchor in a wide cove in the first 1/2 mile of the slough. Entry is via Snodgrass Slough, which is shallow in spots. Use caution.

Mandeville Tip. Huge harbor. Early arrivals anchor next to Mandeville Tip mostly on its wind-protected east side, and late-comers anchor out in the harbor (where anchors can slip). Mandeville Tip (once a county boat-in park) is on the north side of the Deepwater Channel.

The Meadows. A favored Delta anchorage that can handle over 100 boats, most of which tether to shoreside trees. Some anchor there for the summer. Located in behind Locke, off Snodgrass Slough. Shade trees, some beaches. Entry is via Snodgrass Slough, shallow in spots, very long no-wake speed zone.

Mildred Island.  This 1,000-acre agricultural island was flooded in 1983 and never was reclaimed. It has since become a favored fishing hole and anchorage. Boaters enter through the old levee break on the northeast side of the island. Most anchoring is done on the west side of the island on the inner side of the old levees, where there are some sandy beaches.

Potato Slough.  This anchorage is a favorite of sailboaters arriving from the Bay, because they can depart from the Deepwater Channel and safely find a deepwater anchorage. Boaters anchor against and near several small islands, which they call Bedroom One, Bedroom Two and Bedroom Three. This is a short dinghy run to the resorts and bistros on nearby Andrus Island, or to Herman & Helen’s and Tower Park.

Railroad Cut.  Tranquil setting behind the town of Locke. Anchorage now is part of the State Parks system, but has not been developed. Slack water, no wakes, shoreside trees, easy walk to the Chinese-built town of Locke. Maximum stay is 30 days. Entry is via “Locke Slough” — stay to the left after passing the Cross Delta Channel.

Snodgrass Slough.  Located behind Locke adjacent to The Meadows (see above). Waterway runs for several miles beforedeadending. It’s a wide waterway ideal for waterskiing, and thus there is some wake action at this anchorage. Waterskiers will stay here for a week on their “mother boat” handy to waterskiing. Tall boats need to arrange for an opening of the Twin Cities Bridge.

Steamboat Slough.  Steamboat Slough. A-5. Steamboat is a beautiful slough that branches off the Sacramento River below Courtland and feeds back into the river above Rio Vista. Most anchoring is in the first two or three miles of the slough, mostly on its west bank. Some anchor there all summer. You anchor parallel to shore with a bow anchor upstream and a stern anchor downstream. Water can move swiftly at some times.

Three River Reach.  Big Harbor on the south side of the Deepwater Channel that can accommodate at least 200 boats. Many anchor against the east side of Venice Tip (there is one small, sandy beach).

Westgate Landing.  A big harbor and county park off to the east side of the Mokelumne River’s South Fork, just north of Hwy 12 and Tower Park Marina. County has open slips (fee) but there also are convenient places in the harbor to anchor.

White Slough.  Slough runs from its juncture with Little Potato Slough to connect with Bishop Cut. Many small tule islands are located on the slough, and some offer nice anchorages. There is little traffic on the slough. Tall boats must enter from the Little Potato Slough end.

Delta Morsels
Franks Tract

Franks Tract, about 3,500 acres, was another of the Delta island farmlands until its levee broke two years in a row in 1937-’38 and it was not reclaimed. Often referred to as a “submerged lake”, it now is part of the State Parks system. Two electrical power lines that ran across the property (the “long pole” and the “short pole” lines) had poles spliced to pilings and were a regular source of problems for PG&E. Boaters would get their masts and radio antennas tangled in the electrical lines, and one even filed a lawsuit. PG&E kept raising the height of the lines, then in1958 re-routed the lines and hired divers to cut off the pilings one foot from the bottom.

For several years the U.S. Navy had a practice bombing range with floating targets out on the Tract. Vita-Peat used to “mine” peat dirt from the Tract to sell to gardeners to nourish their plants. Some duck hunters place floating duck blinds out on the Tract. And it long has been a favored striper fishing area. Delta lore has it that there still are prop-eating tractors out there, but I doubt if there are any more left to discover.

The property originally was developed and owned by John C. Franks. So, if you spell Franks with an apostrophe s, you have misspelled the name. It correctly is Franks Tract.