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Fish Bulletin 133. Ecological Studies of The Sacramento-San Joaquin Estuary Part 1: Zooplankton, Zoobenthos, and Fishes of San Pablo and Suisun Bays, Zooplankton and Zoobenthos of the Delta

D. W. Kelley | September 9th, 1965

The Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers have a common estuary. These two streams meet in the center of California’s central valley to form the Delta (Figure 1). A hundred years ago the Delta was an extensive tidal marsh, but it has been almost entirely reclaimed for agriculture. The Delta now includes about 738,000 acres of land and water, 700 miles of navigable channels, and 30 large, below sea level islands. About 39,000 acres are covered by water. Some Delta channels are edged with narrow stretches of intertidal marsh but most of them have steep banks of mud or are covered with large cobbles to prevent erosion. They vary in width from a few hundred feet to a mile and are seldom more than 30 to 40 feet deep. In some areas there are small “waste” islands that flood during high tides. These waste islands and levees that surround all Delta channels are covered with an assortment of emergent aquatic plants, grasses, forbs, shrubs, and trees. Water heading toward the sea from the Delta passes through Suisun Bay, which is merely the wide combination of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers below the Delta. Thirty-six percent of Suisun Bay is flooded by less than 3 feet of water at mean lower-low tide, and at this stage about 3,000 acres of intertidal zone is exposed. Richard Painter (see p. 40) has included a map of the 6-foot contour. From Suisun Bay the water flows through the 6-mile long and up to 100 feet deep Carquinez Strait into San Pablo Bay. Almost 60 percent of San Pablo Bay’s 73,000 acres is less than 6 feet deep at mean lower-low tide. San Pablo Bay has a much more extensive intertidal area than Suisun Bay. San Pablo Bay water flows into San Francisco Bay and then through the narrow Golden Gate into the Pacific Ocean. The investigations reported on in this bulletin were geographically limited to the upper and middle portions of the estuary—from the Delta through San Pablo Bay. We have not investigated below San Pablo Bay. McCarty et al (1962) described south San Francisco Bay, and Storrs, Selleck, and Pearson (1964) described north San Francisco Bay. Gillian (1957) wrote an interesting and useful popular account of the entire bay.


ecosystem management, fisheries, native fish, Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta