The Delta King is a fixture on the waterfront in Old Sacramento. You may ask – is the Delta King really a Sacramento landmark? Well, for purposes of this blog post it is.
While I have never stayed in the current day hotel, I have often dined at the Delta Bar and Grill sitting on the decks of the Delta King enjoying both the food and the view of the river, passing boats and the nearby bridges. It is a most pleasant way to spend an hour or two on a nice summer day.
The Delta King Backstory
The Delta King, a 285-foot stern wheel paddle boat, was originally built in Scotland and Stockton, California. Both the Delta King and its twin – the Delta Queen – were christened on May 20, 1927.
The following month both the Delta King and the Delta Queen started making a daily trip between San Francisco and Sacramento. Each evening the two riverboats left their respective docks for the 10 hour trip. They would pass each other going in the opposite direction around midnight at the approximate half way point – Rio Vista, California.
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The Delta King and Delta Queen each had 88 staterooms. Passengers could also bring their own blanket and spend the night on the Cargo Deck. Drink, music, and onboard dining were offered.
Dinner was served on board from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. One could order relishes, salads, vegetables, soups, hot and cold meats and dessert from the a la carte menu. A sirloin steak (New York cut) dinner served with potatoes, rolls and butter, for example, cost $1.00. Among the dessert choices were berry, apple or apricot pie for 15 cents. Passenger could also partake of a hearty breakfast from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. The #5 breakfast, for example, consisted of fruit juice or cereal, ham, bacon or sausage, two eggs, toast and coffee for 55 cents.
Alternative transportation routes, including the completion of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937 and the Bay Bridge in 1938, and the construction of a new highway linking the two cities, all contributed to the demise of the two riverboats daily voyage between the two cities.
When World War II broke out, instead of being transported to the East Coast as had been planned, both the Delta King and Delta Queen were drafted into the U.S. Navy. They were painted Navy gray and served as floating barracks and troop transports.
After World War II the Delta Queen was taken, via the Panama Canal, to the Mississippi River and the steam engines from the Delta King were purchased for spare parts. Once its engines were removed the Delta King was towed from place to place and used for a variety of purposes.
The Delta King was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (#78000791) in 1978.
In 1984, after being partially submerged for 15 months in the San Francisco Bay, the riverboat was towed to Old Sacramento where it underwent a complete renovation over a period of five years.
The Delta King Today
The Delta King reopened as a floating hotel in 1989 after an extensive renovation. It was restored to be as historically accurate as possible, utilizing the original wood when feasible.
It has 44 staterooms, and two restaurants – the Pilothouse Restaurant and the Delta Bar and Grill and a theater. The Delta King is docked on the waterfront on Front Street in Old Sacramento, a popular tourist attraction.
Delta King Grand Re-Opening News Coverage
In 1989 the Sacramento Bee published the following story:
May 19, 1989: A king will be christened Saturday in Sacramento. As benefits royalty, the festivities surrounding the 2 p.m. ceremony will last all day and will be attended by thousands. There will be bands, pipers, balloons and fireworks.
The “king,” of course, is a 63-year-old riverboat, the Delta King. After a close call with death – in which it spent more than a year sunken in San Francisco Bay – and five years of restorative attentions at a cost of about $9 million, the Delta King is again in, er, ship shape.
The Delta King is one of a pair of sternwheeler riverboats that transported people between Sacramento and San Francisco overnight in the ‘20s and ‘30s. (Its sister, the Delta Queen, still functions as a riverboat on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.)
Saturday, the Delta King’s official grand opening as a permanently moored hotel on the waterfront in Old Sacramento will be celebrated with a regatta, fireworks and other entertainment that can be seen at no charge from the grounds near the boat.
Also Saturday, the Sacramento Opera Association, which has chartered the vessel for the weekend, will be conducting its biggest-ever fundraiser, “A Salute to the King.”
A tour of the four-deck boat earlier this week revealed it to quite handsome in areas where restoration is complete. Those include two restaurants, the hotel’s 44 staterooms and most promenades.
Considerable work remains to be done, however, on a 115-seat theater (which will be used to show a film on riverboating during the week and for live entertainment on the weekends), a small museum, two gift shops and several other areas aboard as well as on the docks.
Note: The Delta Queen, like the Delta King, now functions as a hotel. The Delta Queen is moored in Chattanooga, TN.
Interested in learning more about the Delta King?
Check out The DELTA KING California’s Monarch by Shawn Dake on Martin Cox’s Maritime Matters for greater detail and a lot of great pictures.
Any comments or observations to add about the Delta King – past or present?
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