Another conversation on the club's list-serv provided some fascinating history and observations about Liberty Island and how to ride there.
Liberty Island was the last island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin flood lands to be reclaimed. Five thousand acres on the island and 2000 acres to the west of it were purchased in 1917 by Robert K. Malcolm, a Bay Area produce broker.
Some of the soil on Liberty Island is Sacramento clay loam, and some of it is Colombia Gritty clay loam. But most of it is Egbert Muck - a term that originated, I suppose, on the Egbert Tract just south of Liberty Island. Egbert Muck is a rich Delta Basin soil in which a wide variety of crops can be grown in abundance.
By 1918, thirty-five miles of main levees and 150 miles of canals had been built to protect the land from floods. For 55 years the Malcolm family operated Liberty Farms, leasing parcels of the land to various growers. Each year tens of thousands of tons of produce were loaded on railroad cars at Morgan Station (or Libfarm Station) eight miles north of the island and shipped to all parts of the country.
Mr. Malcolm chose the name "Liberty" because at the time he bought the land the U.S. was at war fighting for liberty.
During the years of Liberty Farms operations, as many as 300 permanent residents lived on the island, and there were sometimes over 2000 workers in the fields during harvest.
A school was built and was used in years when there were enough children to warrant it. Peak enrollment was about 65. In other years children rode a school bus to Dixon or travelled to Rio Vista via the cable ferry that crossed Cache Slough. The ferry was operated from 1924 until sometime in the 80's. The Island had its own store, and in 1952 a Liberty Island post office was established.
A wooden bridge connecting "lower" Liberty to "upper" Liberty was replaced by the existing concrete bridge in 1949. In the winter of 1985, Humphrey the whale swam up Shag Slough and under the bridge before his rescuers could get him turned around and headed back out to sea.
In spite of the levees, Liberty Island was flooded 27 times between 1918 and 1973. As floods approached, the residents would move to higher ground and then move back when the water receded.
During the sixties natural gas wells were drilled on the island and were productive, but floods created problems, and the wells were gradually phased out.
Robert Malcolm contributed to the development of UCD, and he is the Malcolm of Malcolm Hall on Campus. After his death in 1951, Liberty was run by his wife, Ester, until 1973 when the ranch was sold to the Moresco brothers of Stockton.
From the Moresco brothers, ownership of the island passed to the Prudential Life Insurance Company. Prudential then sold then sold it to various people including Jack Anderson who, for awhile, owned most of the south end.
The levees are no longer maintained, and the concrete bridge is the end of the line if you're bicycling from Davis. Distance to the bridge is 20 miles from my house in south Davis. It's still one of my favorite rides.
A map of Solano Co. will show the way to Liberty Island. It's pretty simple. Tremont to Buckley Rd.; south on Buckley beyond Midway; a jog to the left at King Road and then south again on Liberty Island Road. Liberty Island road eventually goes to the left and up onto a levee. Go south along the the levee. The levee road to the bridge is mostly unpaved but easily ride-able. On the way back, you can take a right on Yolano Rd. right after the left on King. That takes you through the metropolis of Yolano, up to Midway and back to Buckley.
There's almost no traffic, and once you get near the island there is a lot of water, birds, cows, other animals. It's peaceful. When I started doing the ride, it was possible to ride the 6 or 7 miles to the other end of the island and take the ferry to an old abandoned road that went along the deep water ship channel and the Sacramento River into Rio Vista. But, alas, no longer.
Deb Ford scouted the ride as described above and has posted this link: