Sacramento Delta steam boats

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1880s game box on display at the Sacramento History Museum

The famous race of the Confidence and the Queen City, while not
featured by gunfire, nearly ended in flames so far as the latter vessel
was concerned. The Confidence, of California Steam, burned
Philadelphia coal, imported at some expense; the Queen City,
which belonged to the Marysville outfit, depended upon the
cheaper and more plentiful local supply of wood. So stern a pace
did the Confidence set, for all the screams of her engineer about
the speed with which his coal was disappearing, that the Queen
City had to force her own fires until flame and glowing cinders
poured in sheets from her stacks, the firebrands falling over her
decks in a blazing shower. Little fires broke out here and there,
and· it was necessary to organize her ·passengers into two work
parties — one to pass wood to the furnace, the other to form a
bucket-brigade and put out the resulting blazes on topside. But
despite her efforts, the Queen City lost the race to her rival — from Paddle-Wheel Days in California by Jerry MacMullen, published in 1944.


In 1848, the year of the gold discovery, the Sacramento Delta’s Steamboat Slough was referred to as the “Middle Fork” of the Sacramento River, winding among several islands that certainly confused pioneer John Sutter, who had spent eight days trying to find the main channel nine years earlier. As the Gold Rush brought thousands into the region, Steamboat Slough became the preferred route over the “old river” because it was more than eight miles shorter and several hours less by steamship — from California’s Olden Golden Days blog.


The larger ships usually traveled through Steamboat Slough at night.  Author A.J. Hutchings wrote in 1862 of a daytime trip through Steamboat Slough, and he noted the signs of farming and “husbandry” along both sides of the slough, and the “Snug Little Cabins” tucked away behind the trees along the banks.  Logs kept by the State of California show there were at least 15 landings or ferry stops along Steamboat Slough between 1850 and 1880 — from Steamboat Slough Shipwrecks, courtesy of

A modern-day paddle boat on the Delta

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