Susan Thorne and the Delta King’s central staircase.

The King Lives On

The earthquake-proof ship is moored in the heart of Sacramento’s central riverside park

The King lives on

Our restored paddlewheeler, the Delta King, is today situated in the centre of Old Town Sacramento, adjacent to the State Park Railroad Museum and shops.

The earthquake-proof ship is moored in the heart of Sacramento’s central riverside park and sits beside a busy recreational corridor and riverside promenade.

The Old Town Railroad Museum and park is much like our Barkerville with multiple stores and shops.

The geriatric Delta King has become a unique restored hotel, restaurant and bar, which nicely compliments the State Park Museum.

The King has primarily been serving as lodging and a restaurant for eighteen years. If you suspected the 90-year-old vessel is by now pretty run down you would be wrong.

The museum-like hotel is immaculately presented with professionally attired and attentive staff. Right from the start we knew it would be expensive but it would also be first class.

After the valet parked our car we strolled up the gangway as so many had done previous to us.

Clearly this was going to be an experience for this Canadian historian having a love affair with this riverboat.

The ship is an impressive bold white design accented by black. The vessel’s superstructure is dominated by a massive black smokestack and at the stern sits a striking 26-foot brick red paddle wheel.

Original, well varnished hardwood doors and railing prevail throughout the ship. In the hotel’s registration lobby you are transported back to the time of my grandparents.

The interior is done in antique but functional furnishings and there is a full gallery of models and memorabilia, even photos of Alcan Beach 65 years ago.

I wondered if they knew their ship is missing its ship’s whistle – we have that on display at Kitimat’s Museum and Archives.

For a night we were the proud occupants of room 315 on deck four, the observation deck. Our room was accessed by an original narrow, varnished mahogany door and the desk, antique mirrors, lamps and bed were comfortable and functional. A plush red armchair rounded out the cabin furniture.

And can you believe it, a framed photo of the Delta King at Hospital Beach was on our wall, titled, “The Delta King at Kitamet.” (Their spelling error, not mine.)

The windows were original squares with period bamboo slat blinds while the ensuite hotel plumbing featured the English style near-the-roof water closet with pull down chain, all in brass and all very special.

Dinner served in the elegant Pilothouse Restaurant was not to be missed. It was top class and reasonable considering the riverfront location and ambience.

Warm California sunshine filtered through the upper stain glass windows and floral arrangements and chandeliers were tasteful.

As my wife Susan said, “nothing about this boat is ordinary.” Even the pillows we rested our heads upon were quality, a step above the rest.

We were not disappointed as the food, service and window riverfront views were great. We knew it would be a repeat performance at breakfast.

For those Alcan pioneers who bunked aboard the King in Kitimat, you will be heartened to know that the grand curving central staircase is still proudly in place beckoning folks upwards to the elegant and colourful Delta King Bar and Grill where there are dozens of original and unique coloured glass dioramas depicting historical themes.

Elsewhere within the ship there is a theatre, The Mark Twain Salon and even facilities for special events like weddings.

The Delta King is, as it was at Kitimat, a ship of mysteries. It has its strange idiosyncrasies including the bevelled decks that instead of being level, slope outward from the boat’s centre – I suppose it was meant to shed the rainwater more effectively.

The bow section of the boat with its castle-like bridge and ship’s wheel is off limits to regular hotel guests but it does have that whimsical Huck Finn riverboat look.

The ship with its nine decades of history casts an imposing profile and it does get you wondering. What of all its captains and adventures and while there was never a nautical mishap, how many near misses were there?

There is no claim of old time captains or all those fallen Pacific theatre sailors whose last tie to North America had been the Delta King haunting the vessel but it certainly is a vessel with a story to tell.

Like the Phoenix, throughout its history of lurching highs and lows it always emerged triumphant.

Pioneers of ‘52, you aren’t the only folk with memories of the Delta King. The following poem by American poet Edmund McKnight Campbell says it all.


Welcome aboard the Delta King,

Come spend the hours remembering,

When life moved at a slower pace,

And people valued charm and grace.

The days when life was in its prime,

And no one feared the thief called Time,

When every heart was made to feel,

The romance of the paddle wheel.

Let us assure you, The Delta King is a boat that will live on. We will remember.

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