How Long Is the Sacramento River From Start to End?

Written by Alanna Davis
Published: March 14, 2024
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Nicknamed the “Nile of the West,” the Sacramento River is one of the most important bodies of water in the state of California. If you’re planning on visiting this local landmark, you might have questions about its location, composition, and activities available around this area. Let’s discuss how long the Sacramento River actually is, and explore other facts about this incredible body of water.

The Sacramento River: A Brief Overview

Gold Tower Bridge and Sacramento River in Sacramento, California, photographed from River Walk Park at night with stars in the sky.

Some people consider the Sacramento River to be the most important river in the state of California.


Throughout history, this river has been an invaluable tool for countless people. According to an essay authored by archivist Steve Beck, “The Sacramento Valley was densely populated with indigenous people because there were abundant resources and very little internal conflict. The people lived in relative harmony because everyone had plenty to eat and suitable housing in summer and winter.” This river served as an important trade route, food source, and a convenient way to travel for a number of Native American populations during this time. You may not have known, but this river is also responsible for the inception of the California Gold Rush.

The Sacramento River is equally important today as it has been throughout history. It has become the heart of the local community, and many residents use this river and the land surrounding it as a recreational area. Popular activities along the Sacramento River are bird watching, picnicking, camping, and fishing. Despite this, the condition of the water and surrounding forest has been waning. Local wildlife authorities are working diligently to restore the quality of this river.

How Long Is the Sacramento River Exactly?

The Sacramento River spans a distance of roughly 447 miles, beginning in Mount Shasta and ending at the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta. At this length, it is the longest river in the entire state of California. The average depth of this river is roughly 10 feet, but this can vary depending on your location. This river flows through a number of cities, some of which include Dunsmuir, Red Bluff, Princeton, Davis, Rio Vista, and Antioch.

Although residents routinely participate in several activities around the water, individuals are discouraged from swimming in this river. It is considered dangerous due to fast water speeds, cold temperatures, and poor water quality. In addition, kayaking and tubing are also risky activities to participate in.

Other Local Rivers Comparable to the Sacramento River

Sacramento River below Shasta Dam, Shasta Lake, California

The Spanish explorer Gabriel Moraga is responsible for giving this river its name.

©Hank Shiffman/

If you’re looking for a river to swim in in California, the American River is a better choice. It is significantly cleaner than the Sacramento River, and it’s safer for residents to kayak or tube on. However, it is much shorter at just 199 miles in length. The San Joaquin River is similar in size to the Sacramento River at roughly 366 miles long. It is important to note that this river displays similar water speeds to the Sacramento River. Because of this, taking a swim can be dangerous even for seasoned swimmers.

Final Thoughts

The Sacramento River is a place rich in history and nature that has the ability to attract both locals and travelers alike. Local wildlife authorities have a positive outlook for the future of this river. With enough time and effort, it is likely that the quality can be restored to its former glory. For more information about the water quality of the Sacramento River, you can reference the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

Alanna is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering insects, animals, and travel. In addition to writing, she spends her time tutoring English and exploring the east end of Long Island. Prior to receiving her Bachelor's in Economics from Stony Brook University, Alanna spent much of her time studying entomology and insect biology.

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