Long ago, the area we know as Sacramento was happily inhabited by the Nisenan branch of the Maidu tribe. With two mighty rivers running through it, relatively mild weather year round,it was a natural place for the Native Americans to live. Those same qualities appealed to the European settlers who came later. Who were they, what did they do, how did they manage, and most of all, what is it that you just may not know much about?
A German-Swiss-Mexican Citizen Settled Here

(credit: parks.gov.ca)

(credit: parks.gov.ca)

Sutter’s Fort was built by John Augusta Sutter, who was born in Germany, and raised in Switzerland, and who became a citizen of Mexico as a condition of being granted permission to settle what we know as Sacramento by Juan Bautista Alvarado, governor of Alta California. Sutters Fort is where he started, and the fort, built in 1840 to 1841, is still standing in Sacramento. Sutter was a soldier, and entrepreneur. He once owned over 48,827 acres around here. Sutter went on to become famous for his mill in Coloma, where gold was discovered in 1848, and for going broke along the way. Did he stay here? No, he moved to Lititz, Pennsylvania with his wife. He died in Washington, DC, 1880. Quite a journey, not altogether a smooth one.
Sunbathers watch a fire helicopter on the American River - CBS13

Sunbathers watch a fire helicopter on the American River – CBS13

Two Rivers Run Thru It

The Sacramento and American Rivers bracket Sacramento. In general terms, the confluence of these two mighty rivers was a really lousy place to build a city. One of the things that happened on a yearly basis is that the area regularly flooded when the rains of fall, winter, and spring fell. Not only that, but the mosquitoes and other moisture loving critters were thick as mud most of the time. What that finally led to was a fantastic engineering feat. In the original city, now known as Old Sacramento, the first floors of the buildings are actually the second floors of the most of the buildings. To avoid the constant flooding, along with building levee’s, the buildings were raised, and the streets filled in to match the new first floor level of the buildings. Some building weren’t raised, and that’s how the second floors became the first floors. Today, you can take an underground tour of Old Sacramento and enter a fascinating world of underground wonderment, a city underground. It’s mostly dry.

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Sacramento Wasn’t The First Choice As Capital Of California

The capital city of California wasn’t always Sacramento. The first one was Monterey. The city of Benica was also the Capital at one point. San Francisco, for a brief time, served as the Captial, as did San Jose and Vallejo.It wasn’t until 1879 that Sacramento landed the title permanently. One of the reasons you may not know involve the ocean. Sacramento’s inland location was considered safe from invasion. Back in those days, mighty ships ruled the sea’s, and invasions typically came by sea.

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west sacramento portA Port In Sacramento

Sacramento may not have a front row seat on the ocean, but it does have a robust sea port. Actually, it’s called the Port of West Sacramento, and it is 87.6 miles from San Francisco. Sacramento is a mere 17 feet above sea level, and the channel must be dredged on a regular basis to accommodate the large ships that off load here. It was started in 1946. The channel is 30 feet deep, and runs 43 miles from Suisun Bay to the docks in West Sacramento. Since Sacramento is only 17 feet above sea level, the channel is below sea level.

File. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

File. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Almonds Everywhere

If you are an almond fan, you are in the right place. Sacramento is home to the Blue Diamond Company. During the almond season, Blue Diamond processes over 12 million pounds of almonds.The Blue Diamond Company was formed in 1911, and is still going strong today. Most of the almonds that you buy around here are from Blue Diamond, which is an historical part of Sacramento. 1931 saw a crop of of about 20 million pounds. Things have grown since then. In 2010, the almond crop came in at 1.5 billion pounds. In 2014, it had grown to around 2.10 billion pounds. Sacramento has been called the Almond Capital of the world for a long time. Almonds, anyone?

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Charles Ferris is a freelance writer who has lived in the Sierra, halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, for the last 41 years. In 2010 he retired from teaching after 36 years . He and his wife hike, kayak, cross country ski, snow shoe, ride mountain bikes and road bikes, year round. His work can be found at Examiner.com.