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The Sacramento: River of Gold by Julian Dana

The Sacramento: River of Gold (1939)

by Julian Dana

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I live about four miles from the San Francisco Bay, a body of water that connects the California delta to the Pacific Ocean. Father east, a scenic hour drive, the Sacramento River ends at the Delta.

The Sacramento River has been a recurring location for family trips. As a child we house-boated through the Delta, brushing up against the Sacramento. Trips to Sutter's Fort and Sutter's Mill and the state capitol all involved drives along the river. Now when we go the train museum in Old Sacramento, we always walk along the river. Most recently, we've added trips to Redding, which is divided by the Sacramento.

So you can see why a discarded library book on the history of the Sacramento River and how it affected California's statehood caught my attention. The book is one of the Rivers of America Series and time permitting, I might track down more from it.

The Sacramento, River of Gold by Julian Dana covers the history of the river from the first inhabitants, through Spanish, Mexican, and American settlement, ending with a brief discussion of the first decades of the 20th century (the book was published in the 1930s).

The book's strength's lie in its recent history, namely the events leading up to and through the Gold Rush. Many of the people involved loaned their names to area cities and landmarks. These sections were a bit like reading a California themed Hetalia. They were also a good backdrop to the Cats and Curios series by Rebecca Hale that I've been enjoying.

The book's weakest part is its opening section on the early history of the river. It has a rather disheartening overview of the original people who had settled the area. The book is full of cringe-worthy descriptions, describing them as less cultured, childlike, and (of course) waiting to be saved and educated by Western society.

The book ends with a fascinating bit of "current" history, namely the building of the Shasta Dam. There is a history of the town that was ultimately abandoned and flooded by the lake's creation.

So while the book has its flaws, it was still an interesting read. It just could have been so much better. ( )
  pussreboots | Feb 27, 2014 |
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The Sacramento rises at Big Spring near Mt. Shasta and runs 320 miles to its delta joining with the tidal reaches of the San Joaquin.
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