The Delta King
Riverboat in Old Sacramento, California
The Delta King
Hotel in Old Sacramento is a unique Sacramento treasure. The
authentic riverboat plied the Sacramento River between San Francisco
and Sacramento from 1927 to 1940. During World War II it served as a
troop transport on San Francisco Bay. After the war the Delta King
became a derelict roaming the Delta, without purpose or home. It
sank at Richmond in San Francisco Bay in 1982 for a period of 18
In 1984 the
Delta King was brought to Sacramento where it underwent an
extraordinary renovation at a cost of $9 million. Today it is a
beautiful floating hotel with modern lodging amenities, 2 acclaimed
restaurants offering casual and fine dining, 2 professional
theaters, a wine school and exceptional facilities for weddings and
meetings. The Delta King is the best of the old world and the new.
Experience old world charm and service complimented by modern
amenities and acclaimed cuisine.
The Story of the Delta King
In early 1984 my brother Ed Coyne walked into my San Rafael law
office and suggested we make a modest investment in the historic
riverboat Delta King. I had never heard of the Delta King. Ed
described the famous vessel and its storied history on the
Sacramento River. He elaborated on the striking white
super-structure, particularly as contrasted with the maraschino
cherry red of the churning paddle wheel. He referenced the beloved,
identical sister ship, the Delta Queen, which was famously operating
out of New Orleans on the Mississippi River. Ed spoke of the 14
years that the Delta King and the Delta Queen commuted between San
Francisco and Sacramento from 1927 to 1940 and their role in World
War II. In short order my 3 brothers and sister and I agreed to
invest in the glorious Delta King. The boat we purchased was not
quite as described.
It has been a long and fascinating journey, populated with
adventure, misadventure, stories, great characters, acquaintances
and friends. Only the historic Delta King could have opened such
opportunity, such a life for us.
The Delta King is an authentic 285-foot riverboat that was
originally built in Glasgow, Scotland and Stockton, California. The
King and her identical twin, the Delta Queen, were christened on May
20, 1927, and began their daily river voyages between San Francisco
and Sacramento in June of that year. At 6:00 p.m. each evening, the
grand monarchs of the Delta left their docks for the 10 ½ hour trip
that included prohibition era drinking, jazz bands, gambling and
A stateroom was $3.50, but for a dollar and "…your own blanket" the
night could be spent on the Cargo Deck.
The completion of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridge in 1937 and 1938
spelled the doom of the California river boat. By 1940 the King and
Queen were out of business and readied for transport to New York.
Then the war broke out. Both the King and Queen were drafted into
the U. S. Navy to serve on San Francisco Bay as net tenders,
floating barracks, troop transports and hospital ships. They were
painted Navy gray and renamed YFB 55 (Delta King) and YFB 56 (Delta
At the conclusion of the War, the Delta Queen was purchased by the
Green Line Steamers of Cincinnati and taken, via the Panama Canal,
to the Mississippi River where she served as the flagship of the
Delta Queen Steamboat Company. When the Queen left for the east, she
took the engines from the Delta King for spare parts. The Delta King
has been towed everywhere it has gone since then.
In 2008 the United States Congress declined to extend the exemption
for the Delta Queen to provide overnight passenger service. (Current
regulations do not allow overnight passage of vessels with wood
superstructures.) The Queen is now in Chattanooga Tennessee with
plans to operate as a land side hotel and entertainment facility,
much like the Delta King does currently.
After the war, the King was ingloriously shuttled between Canada and
California as a derelict with hopes of becoming a floating
Ghirardelli Square or Chinese Restaurant dashed by sinkings and
litigations. At one time the Delta King was a landlocked barrack in
Kitamet Canada, used by men working in the nearby mines.
In 1984, after being partially submerged for 15 months in San
Francisco Bay, the Delta King was acquired by my family and towed to
Old Sacramento, where it underwent a complete historical renovation.
Five pain-staking years later the Delta King reopened to reign, once
again, as the heralded monarch of the Sacramento River.
The Delta King Today
The original 88 staterooms now number 44 larger rooms.
The award-winning Pilothouse Restaurant is called a “must dine
destination” by the Sacramento Bee
Delta Bar and Grill- Irish Thursday Nights with “Stout
Rebellion”, Live entertainment on the weekends.
Wedding, meeting and conferences
Suspects Murder Mystery Dinner Theater
Capital Stage productions in our Delta King Theater
Delta King Wine School
The Delta King is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The most frequently asked question about the Delta King is how much
of the original woodwork were we able to preserve. The answer is
“quite a bit”. If you look closely at the beautiful woodwork in the
Delta Bar and Grill and in The Pilothouse, you can discern what is
old and what is new. There is a subtle but distinct difference. Not
all the old wood went back into its original position, but it was
preserved, rejuvenated and used whenever possible. Initially, we had
partners in architect Walter Harvey, since deceased, and his wife
Joanna. Walter insisted on using the original wood, at considerable
additional expense, often over objection. Walter was right.
Delta King Riverboat
1000 Front Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Riverboat Cruises in the United States
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Liberty Square Riverboat in the Magic Kingdom
in Walt Disney World
Belle of Cincinnati - Cincinnati, Ohio
Queen of the Mississippi - New Orleans to
Minneapolis or Cincinnati, OH
The American Queen Steamboat
River Street Riverboat Company - Savannah, GA
Charles River Boat Tours in Boston
Wilmington's Riverboat Queen in Wilmington,