Where is the Sacramento River

The Sacramento River is a major source of water for the millions of residents in the state and other states through which the river passes it’s well known for four distinct runs of Chinook salmon: fall run, late fall run, winter run, and spring run. Where is the Sacramento River?

Sacramento River, the largest river in California originates in the mountains of far northern California near Lake Shasta and then flows 382 miles south-southwest through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta the Central Valley past the city of Sacramento & empties into the Pacific Ocean at San Francisco.

The name Sacramento was originally given to the Feather River by Gabriel Moraga in 1808. It was the scene of the Gold Rush of 1849 and the great Sacramento Flood of 1850, and a history of floods ever since flowing through one of the world’s richest agricultural regions.


Where is the Sacramento River California


                                               Sacramento River Headwaters


The Sacramento River which is California’s largest river provides 31% of the state’s surface water runoff. Once known as “the Nile of the West,” draining the inland slopes of the Klamath Mountains, the Cascade Range, the Coast Ranges, and the western slopes of the northern Sierra Nevada the Sacramento River stretches some 384 miles from its headwaters near Mount Shasta to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.


Where Does the California Sacramento River Start

The Sacramento River originates in the mountains and plateaus of far northern California as three major waterways that flow into Shasta Lake.

The Feather River is the principal tributary of the Sacramento River, in the Sacramento Valley of Northern California.

  1. The Upper Sacramento River
  2. McCloud River
  3. Pit River

The Upper Sacramento begins near Mount Shasta, at the confluence of North, Middle, and South Forks in the Trinity Mountains of Siskiyou County.

It flows east into a small reservoir, Lake Siskiyou, before turning southwest and starting its long journey to the Pacific Ocean emptying into the San Francisco Bay.

The beautiful spring located at the base of Spring Hill in Mt. Shasta City Park is known as the headwaters of the Upper Sacramento River (though other branches of the mighty Sacramento reach even further into the wilderness).

They also support some of the most productive and profitable agriculture in the world, irrigating more than two million acres of arid land. The rivers generate enough hydropower for more than 4 million homes and provide drinking water to over 25 million people, including the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The Sacramento River contains hundreds of species of fish, and the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge, in several units, protects several ecosystems. The EPA, Environmental Protection Agency monitors the water of the Sacramento River and its major tributaries is generally of good quality; the source is snow that melts and collects in upstream reservoirs and is released in response to water needs or flood control.



Where Does the California Sacramento River End


After the Columbia River, the Sacramento River is the largest river by discharge on the Pacific coast of the continental United States. The natural runoff of the river is 22 million acre-feet per year or about 30,000 cubic feet per second.

Before constructed dams were built on its tributaries, to control this, the river always flooded during the rainy season, similar to the flows of the Mississippi River.

The river drains the northern half of the San Joaquin Valley, itself the southern part of the Central Valley collecting water from the Delta area watershed (that is also home to many species of migratory birds) moving under the Golden Gate Bridge, and ending up in the Pacific Ocean. 


Sacramento River and Feather River Map


This river is monitored from 12 different stream gauging stations along the Sacramento River, the highest being perched at an elevation of 1,143 ft. The Sacramento River flows south for 400 miles before reaching the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta and San Francisco Bay.

The Sacramento and Feather Rivers are located in the Lower Sacramento Basin, one of the upper watersheds within the greater San Francisco Bay-Delta watershed. The Sacramento Valley makes up the northern one-third of California’s Great Central Valley.

The river drains about 26,500 square miles in 19 California counties, mostly within the fertile agricultural region bounded by the Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada known as the Sacramento Valley

Key rivers and creeks in the Sacramento River Basin include:

  • Feather River-The largest tributary on the Sacramento River-It originates in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and flows 211 miles from its headwaters to Verona, where it meets the Sacramento River.
  • Yuba River-a tributary of the Feather River historically supported the largest naturally-reproducing population of California Central Valley steelhead.
  • American River-The American River empties into the Sacramento River at the City of Sacramento. With 125 miles of historic habitat, this tributary is the second largest contributor of flows to the Sacramento River. It also creates some of the worst flooding in the US.
  • Clear Creek-Clear Creek is the first major tributary to the Sacramento River below Shasta Dam. 
  • Battle Creek-Battle Creek is undergoing major restoration, including dam removals and habitat enhancement. 
  • Cottonwood Creek is the third largest tributary to the Sacramento River and the largest undammed tributary in the upper Sacramento River Basin


Where Does the Delaware River Start?

The Delaware River begins in 2 branches in the Catskill Mountains of New York. The Western Branch of the Delaware River starts near Mount Jefferson, and the Eastern Branch begins near Roxbury at Grand Gorge. Both branches of Delaware merge in Hancock, NY, & flow as 1 river down to Delaware Bay.…………………………………………………. Read more


-Map of the Sacramento River watershed including Coleman National Fish ...
                        Sacramento River-Sacramento Watershed-Sacramento River Basin


Name The Sacramento River topographic map, elevation, and terrain.

Location: Sacramento River, United States (38.05942 -122.46042 41.29161 -121.50121)

Average elevation: 2,746 ft

Minimum elevation: -23 ft

Maximum elevation: 10,456 ft

Basin Size: 26,500 sq mi


Where does the Missouri River Start and End?

The Missouri River a tributary of the Mississippi starts in Three Forks, Montana, as the confluence of 3 major rivers, Madison, Jefferson & Gallatin & ends in St. Louis, Missouri. Crossing South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, and Kansas, & at 2,540 mi. is the longest river in the US .………………………………………………………………… Read more

Sacramento River and San Joaquin Watershed


The Watershed regions are divided up into 2 regions in the north The Sacramento River Watershed and in the south The San Joaquin River Watershed. Water from both watersheds flows into the Sacramento San Joaquin delta before flowing into San Francisco Bay and ultimately into the Pacific Ocean.

Downstream of the city of Sacramento, the Sacramento River converges with the San Joaquin River to form the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. It’s at this point, a portion of the water that would normally flow through San Francisco Bay out to the sea is diverted supplying water to the San Francisco Bay area and central and southern California.

These two rivers are fed water from many of the other river systems in the northern and central parts of the state. Together, they carry about 42% of the state’s average annual runoff supporting agricultural, manufacturing, and residential use throughout California by pumping and diverting water from the Delta.

The San Joaquin River drains the northern half of the San Joaquin Valley, which is part of the southern area of the Central Valley and one of the most productive agricultural regions in the United States. Several national wildlife refuges are located in the river’s wetlands.

About 80% of the City’s of Sacramento water supply is surface water and comes from the Sacramento and American rivers. The remaining 20% of H2O comes from a system of about 28 groundwater wells that pull water from an underground layer that acts like a reservoir.

Presently there are 1,100 miles of Delta levees that protect farms, cities, schools, and people from flooding and related hazards. But Delta islands are as much as 25 feet below the level of the surrounding water. Many of the levees that protect the islands are fragile, leaving them vulnerable to earthquakes and other seismic activities as well as flooding.

More than half-a-million people call the Delta home, living in 14 cities and towns in six counties. It is home to the community of Locke, the only town in the United States built primarily by early Chinese immigrants during the early 20th century.


How Deep is the Sacramento River


The channel is about 30 feet deep, 200 feet wide, and 43 miles long. Aerial view of the Sacramento River Deep Water Ship Channel and some adjoining and nearby sloughs and farm country.

Most of the Sacramento Valley is below 300 feet in elevation and in its lower course, the Sacramento River drops only about 1 foot (0.30 m) per mile. Between the bajadas or alluvial slopes extending from the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and Coast Ranges, are the low floodplains of the Sacramento River.


Does the Sacramento River Watershed in California Flood


Since the 1800 ‘s flooding was a major concern to all the people that settled in this region along the Sacramento River valley. They built levees by piling dirt along the river banks to keep Sacramento and other waterways from flooding their land. The levees couldn’t stop the water and eventually, floodwater destroyed them taking out towns and farms.

Beginning in the early 1900s the State of California along with the Army Corps of Engineers began building dams and bypasses that are still in use today. In fact, California has one of the largest flood risk reduction systems with dams, levees, weirs, and bypasses to protect and manage this Central Valley region of the Country called The State-Federal Control Flood System.

The California State Plan of Flood Control is a descriptive document that details the infrastructure and operation of the state-federal flood management system that includes 1600 miles of project levees, five major weirs, four dams, six pumping plants, floodways, bypasses, and drainage facilities.


Every year, the City of Sacramento publishes an annual water quality report to inform its residents about the current state of their drinking water.  It analyzes more than 100 substances to ensure they meet all the EPA’s standards.  In the most recent report, Sacramento was fully in compliance with all federal and state drinking water standards.

Any seasonal snow melt and storms spilling from the California mountains would end up in the spilled-over low valley delta land. Once this flooding system was constructed and put into place flooding events became less of an occurrence.


Where is the Philadelphia Schuylkill River?

The Philadelphia Schuylkill River begins in Tuscarora & Minersville Schuylkill County PA. meeting in southern Schuylkill County the river then flows southeast for 137 mi. through Schuylkill, Berks, Montgomery, Chester, & Philadelphia Counties in PA draining into the Delaware River at Philadelphia ………………………………………………………. Read more


JimGalloway Author/Editor


California Through My Lens- The Headwaters of the Sacramento River, Mount Shasta 


Related Questions:

What is the Sacramento River known for?

California’s largest river, the Sacramento, provides 31 percent of the state’s surface water runoff. Once called “the Nile of the West,” the Sacramento River drains the inland slopes of the Klamath Mountains, the Cascade Range, the Coast Ranges, and the western slopes of the northern Sierra Nevada

Is Sacramento River in San Francisco?

The Sacramento River begins very near Mount Shasta and meanders south through Chico, passing west of the Sutter Buttes and south before entering Sacramento. From here, it continues to the east, where it meets with the American River and sweeps south, then finally west to the northern arm of San Francisco Bay.


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