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California Delta: Isleton

Quirky and quiet, this little spot boasts tasty crawdads and a historic Old Town.

The Isleton Public Dock over the Sacramento River in Isleton, California, image
Photo caption
The Isleton Public Dock provides access to the Sacramento River in Isleton, Calif.

Isleton perfectly captures the sleepy eccentricity of the Delta; in fact, it was called “The Little Paris of the Delta” in the late 1800s. It may not have all the charms of the big Paris, but Isleton is worth visiting to stroll its patchwork of cozy stores, card shops, and bars. Isleton Chamber of Commerce: (916) 777-4800,

Area code is 916 except as noted.

to do and see
Much of the year, Isleton remains quiet, good for a day trip or as a sleepover destination. For more action, check out Isleton’s annual festival. The Isleton Cajun Festival is held every Father’s Day weekend, when more than 100,000 people gather for three days to drink beer, groove to live Cajun music, and consume massive quantities of crawdads in 72 hours. Something’s always in season at the Delta Farmers Market, which sells local and organic fruits and vegetables, fresh-baked goods, and picnic provisions such as salami and cheeses. Proceeds from the market benefit the Discover the Delta Foundation (, devoted to educating the public about the environmental and economic value of the Delta. 2510 State Hwy. 12, 777-4000, If you’re looking for speed, come for the Delta Thunder Boat Races, held in early October, with racing on the Sacramento River and live music and barbecue.

Isleton offers classic Delta-style dining at places like Isleton Joe’s, which specializes in locally caught crawdads. Hearty eaters should give the one-pound bucket a try, but beware: De-shelling crawdads is messy business. Novices may want to start with the crawdad cocktail or sandwich. Joe’s bar opens at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, when folks from Del Rio casino across the street takes a break from Texas Hold ’em tournaments. For information, advice, history, and goofy jokes, look for J.P. Morgan, Isleton Joe’s former manager, a 40-year town resident. 212 Second St., 777-6510. In the morning, try Levee Cafe, a kitschy and slightly faded diner offering eggs, chicken-fried steak, and other American breakfast favorites. 501 Main St., 777-6524.

Stay in one of eight riverside cabins, ranging from one to three bedrooms and equipped with satellite TV, at Vieira’s Resort. 15476 Hwy. 160, 777-6661, To find a place to stay, visit

Photograph by Suzanne Black, Delta Webs

Check out the rest of our Delta package:
Clarksburg: Winetasting and bike riding
Locke: The Chinese immigrant past
Lodi: 85 wineries—and a reptile museum
Rio Vista: Bird-watching and riverfront dining
Walnut Grove: Man-made beauty and natural splendor

This article was first published in March 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.