Family Fun with City Cruises Sacramento

While Steve and I were exploring Grass Valley, Trevor stayed with his grandparents. On Memorial Day, the five of us met up in Old Sacramento for something none of us had ever done - a narrated Sacramento River Cruise aboard the Capitol Hornblower. 

City Experiences provided me with the tickets to experience this cruise and tell you all about it. I'll give you all the details below, but let me say right away that we all loved it! I would happily have paid full price for the hour-long river cruise. It was really interesting and a great way to spend time as a family. We weren't the only multi-generational family aboard. While City Cruises offers some 21+ options, the Historic River Cruise is a great choice for all ages. 

The Historic River Cruise starts and ends at the Old Sacramento Waterfront

Before boarding, we strolled the entire length of Old Sac. It's a fun place, with lots of shops and restaurants, as well as a few museums. We've been there many times, but I don't remember the Old Sacramento Waterfront branding being so prominent. 

I'm not sure what this says, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it says Old Sacramento Waterfront. 

I couldn't resist - I had to decode it. Or try, anyway. A few of the flags don't even exist. I ended up with SLE??SI ?JN?R?N. Huh?

Then I realized I was viewing it from the wrong shore. From the other direction, it spells ISABEL S NARANJO. After a bit more sleuthing, I discovered that this art installation, done by Joshua Sofaer, honors local grandmother Isabel Naranjo. She was a migrant farmworker before settling in Sacramento and was well-known for her efforts to distribute food and clothes to farmworkers and provide childcare for their children. There is a similar installation on the other shore honoring Etenesh Zeleke, who immigrated to West Sacramento from Ethiopia and guided her family as they adjusted to a new home. Mystery solved! 

Not only did I not recognize all the signage and this new artwork, but there was something else that had changed in Old Sac since the last time I was there. As I looked toward The Ziggurat, I heard a familiar but unexpected sound.

Could it be.....?

Sea lions!! I had no idea they could make their way this far up the river, but apparently they follow the fish and hang out here. 

We watched them until it was time to board the ship for our cruise. You can buy tickets at the kiosk by the dock, but to guarantee space, I recommend getting them online ahead of time. If you do that, you can bypass the kiosk entirely. 

The Capitol Hornblower is a beautiful ship. It (I've never embraced calling boats "she") holds 120 people, with seating on both decks. Food and drinks are for sale onboard. 

We chose to sit upstairs, which I highly recommend. Dave and Pat sat at a table, while the three of us sat on the barstools that looked out the open windows. If you have the option, sit on the starboard side. Even though the ship follows the same route up the river and back down again, the narration focused primarily on the starboard side on the way upriver. It's easier to get pictures of what you're hearing about if you're on that side. 

We pulled away from the dock and passed the Delta King Hotel. I've been aboard twice and know a bit about the history, but I still learned a lot from Captain Jack, our narrator.  

Captain Jack was full of interesting stories and facts. And even though not everyone was quiet and listening (grrr), the speakers were loud enough that we could all hear without straining. 

I have to interrupt myself to beg you not to speak over the guide when you're on a narrated tour. Not YOU, of course. YOU have manners and common sense. But not everyone does. There are few things more frustrating than paying for a guided tour and not being able to hear the guide because other passengers aren't interested in listening. That's fine - don't listen. But don't talk! 

Rant over. Like I said, it wasn't an issue on this cruise because the ship was well-designed to allow everyone to hear. 

No matter where you live, you are probably aware that California had an unusual amount of rain this winter. All that rain means that the Sacramento River is quite full. Not record-breaking full, but full enough that they had to open the I-Street Bridge for us to pass through. In normal times, the Capitol Hornblower can sail beneath it. 

I've never seen the I-Street Bridge open. I assumed it was a vertical-lift bridge like Sacramento's more famous Tower Bridge. Nope! It's a swing bridge. 

Seeing the bridge open and learning how it works was my second-favorite part of the whole trip. I strongly recommend taking a river cruise now while the water is high so that you can watch the process.

So what was my favorite part of the Historic River Cruise? It was not this line of goslings...

... nor was it learning about the important work of DART Sacramento.

It wasn't the native plants growing along the shore. 

It was this, the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers. 

If you look at a satellite image of Sacramento, you can see the two rivers meeting. And you can clearly see that the color of the water is different. That's the Sacramento River flowing from the west and then south through Sacramento. The darker American River flows from the east. 

I've seen the convergence from the air, but I've never seen it from right there in the water. It's crazy how well-defined the boundary between the two rivers is. 

Unfortunately, this isn't a natural occurrence. The silt in the Sacramento River is a result of hydraulic gold mining upriver in the 1800's.  

All too soon, we were back at the I-Street Bridge. The time flew by during our hour-long cruise. 

As we approached the dock, you can see the Old Sacramento Waterfront from the other side. At the far left of the photo, you can see ISABEL S. NARANJO the way it was meant to be seen. 

Whether you live in the Sacramento area or will be visiting, I highly recommend the Historic River Tour! It's not always easy to find an activity that kids, parents, and grandparents will all enjoy, and this was exactly that. We learned so much and thoroughly enjoyed a relaxing tour along the Sacramento River. If only our drive home from Sacramento fighting traffic on Memorial Day had been as relaxing! 

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