Succulents in rural Chinatown

The Sacramento—San Joaquin River Delta is an estuary formed by the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. Many locals only have a passing acquaintance with this water world and quite a few visitors don’t even know it exists.


Bridge over the Sacramento River near Locke

I took a friend wine tasting at the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksburg on Saturday (yes, there is world-class wine-growing and wine-making barely 30 minutes outside of Sacramento), and afterwards we took a leisurely drive down the Sacramento River to the historic town of Locke.


Main Street in Locke

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark District, Locke was built by Chinese immigrants in the early 20th century who had come here to work in the surrounding fields and orchards. It is the only town in the U.S. built “by the Chinese for the Chinese.”


Downtown Locke

100 years after Locke was established, the town today has a population of 70, only a handful of which are of Chinese descent. Main Street has a few restaurants, stores and museums that are keeping Locke alive but walking around through some of the other streets, it’s difficult not to shake the feeling that Locke is heading towards becoming a ghost town.

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Cobwebs and crooked building


Decades of carved graffiti


I’m a sucker for Chinese signs


Electricity meters overgrown with morning glory vines


The pears do look fresh even if nothing else does


Sacramento Delta or Mississippi Delta?


Furry bicycle

It was great to see so many plants in front of some of the stores and houses. They weren’t the nicest or the neatest, but I loved seeing bits of green amidst the unstoppable decay.


The geraniums look well tended, the succulents on the rack on the right not so much—but they’re tough so they don’t mind


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The lemons are metaphors for what’s happing with the entire town


Gasteria, epiphyllum and dragon fruit


Massive prickly pear


These tunas will make great jelly when ripe


This clump of prickly pears was as tall as the house!


The pot filled with water hyacinth was a nice surprise


Bamboo and crated pumpkins


Morning glory vine


Cannas growing in a crack next to a shed. I love the color contract with the turquoise dumpster.


Grapevine and machinery of unknown purpose


Succulents in toilets—sure to bring a smile to your face!


I wonder how long it took to amass such a collection of toilets?


Echeveria gibbiflora hybrid

I’ve enjoyed visiting Locke for the 25+ years I’ve lived in the Sacramento area and I hope that the town can be kept alive—and reasonably authentic—for future generations. In recent years, an influx of artists has given Locke a new lease on life so maybe there is hope.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Locke, listen to this program from Sacramento’s Capital Public Radio.


  1. A charming and quirky place, and its dwindling population just adds to the charm. Saying that I hope it carries on and its heritage gets preserved.

  2. Loved getting to see a bit more of the area around your home. When we were in Sacramento in October of 2009 we walked along the river for quite always, of course I can't remember exactly where.

    I'm not sure what to think abut the succulents in toilets...

  3. What a wonderful surprise! At least 35 years ago we rented a houseboat in Locke for a vacation on the Sacramento Delta. It is fascinating to see not much has changed...those cobwebs even look familiar. I don't remember what the population was back then but I do believe it was less then 70. Love the recycled planters - those will last a few decades! Thanks for a trip down memory lane!

  4. What an interesting place! Not sure about that grouping of planters.

  5. I need to go visit that place. They should start a Farmers market or something to drum up people.


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