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Stories from the valley

The River

Contributed by Steve Beckley

The Sacramento River has always been important to me.  Growing up in Grimes, we just called it “The River.” Other rivers have a first name but for many in the area not the Sacramento.  I was born in Colusa less than a mile from The River and our home in Grimes was also less than a mile from it.  When the water is running high as it has recently, I make regular trips to check The River out.


I have many memories of The River such as catching striped bass and catfish, but never lucky enough to catch a salmon.  As youth, we swan in the river and the top of the levee was also a great place to just hang out and watch the world go by.  Getting to go out in a boat was always fun as you got to see your world from a different perceptive.

One memory, an annual event in the late 50s and early 60s, was a power boat race from Stockton to Colusa then back to Stockton.  As kids, we spent many hours sitting on its banks watching the boats come up and then go back.  You could hear them coming for miles.

I remember 1955 when the valley received a terrific amount of rain and a tragic flood devastated the Yuba City area.  Our area was under evacuation area, but we just stayed on the top floor of our two-story house.  A few of our neighbors joined us.  I will never forget the sight of water close to the top of the levee will always be in my mind.  Grimes is part of the Grand Island which is higher than the surrounding area.


The River was for many years a transportation route for boats and barges.  In the 1800s and early 1900s, steamships made their way up The River transporting grain and people.  Grimes was a hub for grain transportation.  Growing up I can remember barges carrying grain and petroleum.  A mural near the Grimes Post Office honors riverboats showing the steamboat Valletta on The River.

Our ranch as others in the area depended and still does on the The River for irrigation. I farmed and worked for other farmers during my college years, so irrigation water from The River helped put me through college.

There is much more I could write about The River.  It was and continues to be important to all in the Sacramento Valley.  Our past and future depend on a healthy river system.