Rio Vista is a breeze-washed town on the Sacramento River known for bass fishing, visits by a misguided whale, and a quirky bar-restaurant festooned with dozens of hunting trophies, including the head of an elephant.
About 25 miles west of Lodi, Rio Vista (“River View” in Spanish) is a worthy destination for a day trip. It’s also a stopping off point for exploration of the Delta, a drowsy world of sloughs and channels, egrets and cranes.
Incorporated in 1893 the community’s most prominent landmark, the Rio Vista Bridge, was designed by Joseph Strauss, architect of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Over time, the town emerged as a farm center, and today remains ringed by sheep and cattle ranches. In the center of the Delta, between San Francisco and Sacramento, Rio Vista includes a solid base of industrial enterprise and an airport local leaders hope will bring more business and jobs in the future.
Though the great salmon runs of the 1800s have slackened, fishing is still big in Rio Vista. The city provides fishing piers, and the biggest annual event in the town is the annual Rio Vista Bass Derby and Festival. The competition dates to 1938. Thousands of anglers compete in the event, and thousands more come to enjoy the festivities.
Rio Vista boasts a relaxed, tree-shaded central business district clustered around Main Street, which flows directly to the river’s edge. There, visitors will find a monument to Humphrey the Wayward Whale. Humphrey drew national headlines in 1985 when he swam up the river to Rio Vista and spent several days cruising local waters before being guided back to sea.
The central district is a fine stroll and includes cafes and boutiques, a local museum, and the well-known Foster’s Bighorn.
Foster’s is the legacy of the late William Foster, who blended his passion for big game hunting with his vocation as a barkeep and restaurateur. Foster went on numerous hunting trips to Africa, Alaska, Canada and Montana, bringing back a stunning menagerie of trophies including the heads of an elephant, hippo, lion and rhino — 300 specimens in all.
Those less enthralled with taxidermy will find several other options: The Point is a popular bar and restaurant, specializing in seafood and overlooking the river; the Rio Vista Bakery features soups, sandwiches and salads, and is a local favorite; and The Striper Cafe is known for great breakfasts.
“Sitting at The Point, sipping a pomegranate martini, watching the sun bounce off the water is something really special,” said Mary Thompson, a volunteer at the Rio Vista Chamber of Commerce.
Thompson and thousands of other seniors live at Triology, a planned community in the northeast area of Rio Vista that now comprises roughly half of the city’s population of 8,200. Sort of a city within a city, Triology serves residents 55 and over and includes a golf course that’s open to the public.
Rio Vista is a hub for numerous outings and activities, including fishing, biking, ferry rides, camping and windsurfing.
In sum, the town has several scenic spots and is at the center of the Delta, a scenic region.
Like Humphrey, you may find yourself drawn to this unique community for a memorable visit.
Not To Miss:
The Bass Derby and Festival; www.bassfestival.org.
The Promenade is a park along the city’s riverfront.
Take the free ferry to Ryer Island, just north of Rio Vista on Highway 84.
Western Railway Museum; www.wrm.org.
Delta Farmers Market; www.discoverthedelta.org.
City of Rio Vista: www.rio-vista-ca.com; 707-374-6451.
Rio Vista Chamber of Commerce: www.riovista.org; 707-374-2700.
Delta Breeze transit service: www.deltabreeze.org; 707-374-2878.
River Delta Unified School District: www.riverdelta.org; 707-374-1700.