Discover a kick-back oasis in the Central Valley’s Delta Loop
Kerrie Nash and wife Linda Nash spray passersby during the 17th Annual Delta Loop Fest to kick off summer at the Lighthouse Restaurant and Bar in Isleton. Photo: TIM HUSSIN, Freelance / Special To The Chronicle
San Francisco native Ted Lyman had heard rumors of an oasis in the Central Valley for years. A place where life moved at its own pace, the weather was idyllic, and eclectic bars and cafes dotted the landscape.
Lyman, then in his early 20s, sailed through the calm waters of California’s Delta in the mid-1960s and soon found what so many had shared stories about: the Delta Loop — a bucolic community of boaters, anglers, restaurants and shops off Highway 12.
Nearly 50 years later, Lyman smiles as he recalls leaving the fog of the Bay Area and arriving in the serene retreat roughly 50 miles away.
“It was such an eye-opener,” Lyman says. “There’s palm trees and green grass. We sailed for 10 hours and ended up in paradise. I’ll never forget it.”
Lyman owns a 45-foot boat at nearby Bethel Island and still routinely sails the Delta Loop.
“It’s a fabulous setting,” Lyman says. “There are funky bars, thrift shops and houses overlooking the water.”
The amicable atmosphere extends beyond the welcoming smiles and casual conversations between residents and tourists alike. The Delta Loop appears to share some of its DNA with Mayberry; it’s not uncommon to walk from store to store and see unlocked, unattended bicycles. Trust is abundant, and everyone focuses on having a relaxing, enjoyable experience.
Hawaii is synonymous with “Island Time,” the concept of relaxation and a lack of urgency. The same ambience extends to the Delta Loop, which sits on an island between the Sacramento, Mokelumne and San Joaquin rivers. The pace of life is unhurried, and the attire is casual. Shorts and sandals are a favorite choice among men, while the women are regularly seen in sundresses.
At restaurants, patrons are often on a first-name basis with their servers, and the routine specials and community events give them ample opportunities to interact.
Karaoke night is every Sunday at Spindrift Restaurant and General Store, while Fridays feature a steak and lobster special. Poker runs, chamber of commerce mixers, swap meets and holiday celebrations are held throughout the summer.
A favorite among delta residents and tourists, Spindrift offers tasty fare with an emphasis on Mexican cuisine. The chimichangas are filled with either slow-cooked pulled pork, spiced chicken or spicy beef, and topped with a choice of homemade sauces.
They are often washed down with Delta Punch, a house specialty crafted from Tequila and banana liqueur. Take a sip and revel in Spindrift’s eclectic and quirky design of port windows, wood pillars, lanterns and assorted nautical kitsch.
Owner Chris Corda has operated the restaurant and store in the 60-year-old building since 2005. He has created a one-stop center for provisions, homemade fare and entertainment.
As president of a local business association, Corda helps coordinate special events with other marinas and restaurants around the loop.
A common sight while you navigate the meandering highway circling the loop are anglers, either on the bank or in boats, fishing for the delta’s bounty. Catfish, sturgeon, largemouth bass, striped bass and perch all share the waters, and salmon also cycle through the area during their biannual runs.
“Many of the adult fishermen from this area fall in love with fishing as children standing on the bank trying to hook crappie,” Lyman says.
The scenic surroundings of the Delta Loop have inspired many artists and photographers throughout the years. Perhaps most notable is Marty Stanley, a native of nearby Isleton who painted the vibrant landscapes and seasons of the delta.
Before his death in 2006, Stanley created the “Return to Paradise” series, a collection which has been turned into prints sold across the world.
“It’s a perfect place for artistry,” Lyman says. “You have Mount Diablo in the background, tules and water.”
Photographers, both amateur and professional, often flock to the Delta Loop for pictures of nearby bridges, winding roads, sloping hills lined with wildflowers and fronds of palm trees swaying in the breeze.
The history of the Delta Loop is tied directly to the Korth family, landowners in the delta who helped develop the area in the 1930s. Originally farmers on a plot at the confluence of the Mokelumne and San Joaquin rivers, the Korths started a boat rental business that blossomed into the development of a lagoon and various marinas.
More and more people showed up the early ’50s, eager to capitalize on the emerging vision. Fishing enthusiasts purchased land for recreation, and the community began taking shape. When several disgruntled former members of the Oakland Yacht Club arrived at the Delta Loop, they seized the opportunity to start a new organization, which exists at the Caliente Isle Yacht Club.
The club continued to grow, and more infrastructure was added over the years in the form of a footbridge, berths and parking spaces.
With 1,000 miles of waterway, boating is a way of life on the delta. It’s especially true for the Delta Loop, home to multiple harbors, marinas and shops centered on boat maintenance.
In the market for a new yacht or gently used boat? Delta Yacht Sales can search its expansive network for just the right vessel. For day-trippers looking to stay within a smaller budget yet still navigate the waterway, Kokopelli Kayak Rentals can have visitors paddling in a matter of minutes.
Overnight guests can pitch a tent at the KOA campgrounds at the southwestern corner of the 10-mile loop. Visitors who prefer to sleep in a bed can lodge at one of the cottages at B&W Resort, which also includes showers and bathrooms.
And for those who want a more passive approach, Delta Heartbeat Tours offers educational and engaging private tours for its customers.
Picturesque. Welcoming. Tranquil.
“It’s like heaven,” Lyman says.
Jordan Guinn is a freelance writer. E-mail the
Andreas Cove, 809 Brannan Island Road, Isleton. (916) 777-2223.
B&W Resort Marina, 964 Brannan Island Road, Isleton. (916) 777-6161.