Stockton port celebrates diamond anniversary
Seventy-five years ago last week and with very little fanfare, the ocean-going lumber schooner Daisy Gray slipped through the entrance of San Francisco Bay.
Cutting through the narrow two-mile opening, her crew could no doubt see workmen between the northern shore of Lime Point and the southern shore of Fort Point to the south beginning construction on the Golden Gate Bridge.
However, the Daisy Gray and her tons of lumber from the Pacific Northwest sailed on, past the docks and wharves that lined the Port of San Francisco. She moved through the waters around Angel Island and then headed north past Richmond into San Pablo Bay. Still unnoticed, she moved east through the Carquinez Straight into Suisan Bay and then into the waters of the San Joaquin River.
The 26-foot-deep water of the newly opened Stockton Deep Water Channel, three years in the making, beckoned before her and the Daisy Gray made her way slowly along the narrow channel. Moving into a fog bank, she emerged from the notorious California Delta soup just moments before arriving at her destination — the newly christened Port of Stockton.
As the Daisy Gray slid smoothly to her berth, her crew could hear the blare of whistles and horns throughout the inland town. Within moments, hundreds of Stocktonians had gathered on the dock to welcome the first oceangoing vessel to travel the nearly 75 miles from the Pacific Ocean to their new port.
Seventy-five years later, the Port of Stockton is remembering that key event as it celebrates its diamond anniversary. Despite the impacts of the Great Depression, three wars, and cycles of growth and neglect, the Stockton port has managed to weather through to become a major player in the California shipping trade.
While not a container port like its kin in Southern California or Oakland, the 2,000-plus-acre Stockton port has managed to carve out a sizable niche for itself as a key bulk port, serving as a vital export conduit for California agricultural products and a lynchpin for the delivery of construction material imports into the Delta and Central Valley regions.
A U.S. Navy transfer of land to the port several years ago added more than 1,400 acres to the port's operating land, making Stockton the largest inland port west of the Mississippi River and the third-largest port in California by acreage.
Still served by the Stockton Deepwater Channel — now dredged to 37 feet — the port can handle fully loaded vessels up to the 60,000-ton class and as long as 900 feet. Nearly 500 vessels have called at Stockton in the past two years, easily breaking previous vessel call records for the port.
The port has berthing space for 17 vessels, 1.1 million square feet of dockside transit sheds and shipside rail trackage, 7.7 million square feet of warehousing for both dry bulk and general cargoes, including steel. Each warehouse is also served by rail.
In 2006, the last year for which complete numbers are available, the port topped 3.3 million tons in imports and 200,000 tons of exports. Imports and exports combined, the port handled more than $440 million worth of cargo in 2006.