Stretching east of the Bay Area to Stockton and north to Sacramento lies California’s delta — a puzzle of waterways and islands surrounding lush farmland.
The Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers converge here. With a system of channels, gates and pumps built over a century, it’s become the center of California’s water distribution system. Policymakers, interest groups and residents have been fighting for decades over how to manage the area, with the latest controversy surrounding Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to build two huge tunnels underneath the Delta.
While California’s record drought has refocused attention on the Delta, little media attention is paid to the people who actually live and work there. Farmers, fisherman, boaters and marina owners all call the Delta home.
Daniel Wilson’s family has farmed this land for “five or six generations.” He grows pears and cherries in an orchard on Andrus Island, minutes from the Sacramento River.
About 15 miles south, where the Mokelumne and San Joaquin rivers meet, Kande Korth runs the Pirate’s Lair Marina, a haven for vacationing boaters and fisherman that the Korth family has owned and operated for generations.
Every day but Sunday, Rick Stelzriede captains his 21-foot aluminum boat through a 60-mile route through the Delta, delivering mail to marina owners like Korth, and farmers like Wilson. Stelzriede has the unique distinction of being the only mailman in California who delivers by boat. At most stops, he just slows his boat as it approaches a pier with a mail box, picks up and drops off mail, then flips up the red metal flag and continues on his way.