With over 1,000 miles of waterway, the Delta has plenty to offer even during the fall months.
Boating may be limited to fishermen come this time of year but there’s still plenty of wildlife, restaurants and watering holes.
“Al the Wop’s” bar and restaurant in Locke is one of those places.
Open seven days a week, this historic place hasn’t changed much over the years.
Al’s may be famous for steak and pasta but it’s the dollar bills attached to the ceiling that’s often the topic of conversation. Stop by and ask the bartender there to show you how to do just that using a quarter and thumb tack.
That’s only part of Al’s history.
Locke is an unincorporated community located on the Delta along the Sacramento River next door to the town of Walnut Grove. It was built in the early 20th century by Chinese immigrants – Locke was originally named Lockeport after George Locke, who once owned the land.
To delve even further back, Locke was part of the Swampland Reclamation Act of 1861. Included was draining of the Delta wetlands and building levees to regulate flood control, with Chinese immigrants hired to do the backbreaking labor. They weren’t allowed to own land back then but opened several businesses in the area.
In 1912, the Chinatown area of Walnut Grove was destroyed and burned after an accidental fire. This caused a migration of Chinese from the Zhongshan district to move into the neighboring areas.
George Locke leased the land to Chinese immigrants, who at one point numbered from 1,000 to 1,500 serving as farm laborers, picking asparagus, potato, pears, and white beans, to name a few.
Al’s place, meanwhile, was constructed in 1915 by Lee Bing and three partners who operated a Chinese restaurant in Locke.
But it wasn’t until 1934 that Al’s place came to be.
Al Adami and an associate came up the river from Ryde, opening the only non-Chinese business in town that year. Al later purchased the building from Bing, continuing the business until his death in 1961.
Al’s legacy lives on. Besides throwing money to the ceiling, his unusual antics included cutting off neckties of patrons and using his finger in stirring ladies’ drinks.
Separating Locke from Walnut Grove is the Delta Meadows State Recreation Area. That’s the Railroad Slough Levee Road accessible from River Road via a small gravel road northeast of the Delta Cross Channel – this is the water diversion facility on the Sacramento River.
During the spring and fall months, the Delta Natural History Association provides canoes with guides in this area.
One way of spotting Walnut Grove from as far Interstate 5 is the radio and television towers. Built in 1962, the KXTV/KOVR/KOVR tower, at 1,548 foot in height, dominated the skyline. In 1985, a 2,048-foot tower was completed, making it one of the tallest structures in the world.
Walnut Grove was settled in 1850 by John Sharp and has several historic buildings that survived the years.
The old theater is now a custom rod iron store. Built in the 1920s, the Imperial Theater as it was once known. It later became the Grove Theater and stayed in operation until the 1960s.
Along River Road is “The Big Store.” Once upon a time, it was the Alex Brown General Store constructed in 1915 after a fire destroyed the original building.
The fall months are usually a good time to visit to this part of the Delta. Gone are the folks with the recreational vehicles and watercrafts not to mention the trucks occupying most of the road with their harvest.
More information can be obtained on the area by calling the California Delta Chambers at 916.777.4041 or logging on to www.californiadelta.org.