Sutter’s Fort a Kind of Living History

My toddler grandson and I visited Sutter’s Fort on a Friday morning along with school kids.

Many a fourth grader in the Sacramento area has taken a field trip to Sutter’s Fort. It is easy to see it as a place primarily for kids. Alas, that would be selling Sutter’s Fort short.


It doesn’t take much imagination to put yourself into the place of a miller or blacksmith living on this farm enterprise. Or imagine what life must have been like living in a community confined to these relatively small courtyards during floods in winter. This is where many a pioneer stopped thankful to reach “civilization” as primitive as it was. The California Indian museum next door tells the story of the indigenous people who lived here before European settlers and their fate as the settlers introduced small pox and other diseases and land ownership.

Here you see how the fort was first and foremost an enterprise. Many of the recreated scenes are accompanied by a narrated recording, but there are a few volunteer re-enactors who enliven the feel of the clerk’s office or other activity centers within the fort.

John Sutter was a Swiss immigrant who was granted the land from the Spanish for the fort and farms around it. His place in history was secured as the owner of the mill further upstream of the American River in Coloma where gold was discovered. The resulting rush brought a population of seekers and adventurers, quick statehood, and huge environmental degradation and water laws.

Toddlers will race through the Fort finding very little of interest except the stairs and the gift shop. However, with a little energy expended, you may enjoy a nice snack stop on this bench enjoying the view of ducks, geese and butterflies.

Entrance per adult is $5 and per child over 5 is $3 except on special interpretive days like the Friday we visited. Then the admission is $7 per adult and $5 per child over 5. (Toddlers are free!) The fort gates are open almost every day of the year from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Perfect Day for Rafting the American River

The blimp was over Carmichael to cover the Masters' Golf Tournament.
It was a high of 92 degrees with light cloud cover. Perfect for rafting, cycling, and golfing.

I stopped my bike along the American River Parkway to watch the hundreds of river rafters floating downstream. It brings back so many good memories of rafting as a teenager. My son and his friends also have spent many a day on the river. It is a lot of fun and best when hot but not too hot. You can rent a raft around the Sunrise Boulevard bridge or launch your own craft from one of the parks on either side of the river. It takes a couple of hours to float down to Ancil Hoffman park or to Arden Park. A small part of me worried that none of the boaters has their life jacket on and I know they are drinking alcohol.  (Boating and alcohol should not mix!) I did not wear a life jacket as a teenager either as tan lines were more important to me than safety. In spite of the drought Lake Natoma and the American River from Orangevale to where it meets the Sacramento River in downtown Sacramento are at normal summer levels because it is regulated by releases from the Folsom Lake reservoir.

Looking across to Negro Bar on Lake Natoma.
Looking across to Negro Bar on Lake Natoma. The Aquatic Center has hosted the NCAA Pacific Region rowing championships.

Lots of people were also boating on Lake Natoma. This manmade lake stretches from the Aquatic Center at Hazel Avenue to the Rainbow Bridge in Folsom (about 5 miles). The bike/horse trail makes a ring around it. I cycled 56 miles round trip from 9-2:30 today. I was still recovering from 30 miles yesterday in the 104 degree heat. This is all about preparing for RAGBRAI so it is miles + time in the saddle. Speed is less important. I am finding that it is a mental challenge as much as a physical challenge. I shared with my cousin John that I am worried I will not be able to ride the full length, and he chuckled and said he gives himself permission to take a day off and go play golf. I felt better and decided I will do my best. Keep my eye on the prize: have fun. On the ride home I noticed the blimp in the sky. At first I thought it must be passing through on its way to or fro an event in the Bay Area. Then I remembered the US Senior Open Golf Tournament in Carmichael. I hope none of the old duffers playing yesterday expired in the triple digit temperatures. I imagine today’s high of 92 with breeze was a relief. I hope the television gives the audience some views of the river.