Sacramento Delta Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

When rivers meet the ocean, a special kind of land is formed. In this lesson, you'll learn about one of these special areas, the Sacramento Delta, and will find out what important benefits it provides to animals and people.

Birds, Birds, Birds!

As you're visiting the state of California, you see a huge bird standing on a dock. It looks as if it belongs in a movie with dinosaurs - dark black with a yellowish-orange face, and huge wings that are spread out to dry in the sun. As you watch this bird, a Double-Crested Cormorant, you notice many, many other birds around. What's this area that attracts so many birds?

Welcome to the Sacramento Delta, which is also called the ''Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.'' It's home to over 500 different species, or kinds, of wildlife, and during the fall and winter there are millions of birds that come here to escape the cold weather in other parts of the country. Why would they all come to this one place?

Triangle-Shaped Land

A delta is the area where a river flows into the ocean. As the river approaches the sea, its water doesn't move as quickly as before, so the sediment, or bits of soil, being carried by the river drop to the bottom. Over time the sediment builds up, forming wetlands.

The name ''delta'' came from the Greek letter ''delta,'' which looks like a triangle; most deltas are shaped like triangles, with the wide bottom of the triangle being the part where the river meets the ocean. The Sacramento Delta is unusual, though, because it's an inverted delta. An inverted delta has the point of the triangle where the river meets the ocean and gets wider away from the coast.

Sacramento Delta
delta2

The Sacramento Delta is formed from the Sacramento River and the San Joaquin River. The delta was created where these two rivers meet the Pacific Ocean. The Sacramento Delta is very large; it covers about 738,000 acres, which makes it larger than the entire state of Rhode Island!

Water, Water, Water

Like many other deltas, the Sacramento Delta is an important area for farming. Over 100 years ago, people began building levees to control the water in the delta and to keep it from flooding. The land then became dry enough to use for farming. Today there are over 1,000 miles of levees that control the water in the delta.

Sacramento Delta Farmland
delta

In addition to farmland, the delta also provides another valuable resource: water. Two out of every three people living in California get at least some of their drinking water from the Sacramento Delta area. This makes the delta extremely important. The water is also used for manufacturing and recreation, such as boating and swimming.

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