Situated on the banks of the Sacramento River, near the confluence with Cache Creek, is the town of Knight’s Landing. It is the oldest town in Yolo County and at one time it was a major point of embarkation and debarkation for river traffic in the county. Today, it is a sleepy river town of just under 1,000 people. Like many of the towns founded in the earliest portion of our state’s history, Knight’s Landing went through a boom and bust cycle and has become a small town serving the agricultural community around it.
Knight’s Landing was founded in 1843 by Dr. William Knight, a physician from Baltimore. He founded the town on the site of a Native American mound where Cache Creek joined the Sacramento River. Originally, the settlement was to be named Baltimore after Dr. Knight’s hometown but that name was soon forgotten. Dr. Knight began operating a ferry across the Sacramento River which at a later time passed to J. W. Snowball. Dr. Knight played an important part in the Bear Flag Revolt, for it was he who warned Fremont about Lieutenant Francisco de Arci’s plan to capture horses to use to drive American settlers out of California. William Knight also appears on Bancroft’s and Murphy’s lists of those who took part in the Bear Flag Revolt in Sonoma.
In 1850, one S.R. Smith ran a hotel in Knight’s Landing and in 1853 the town was formally surveyed by Charles F. Reed and officially named Knight’s Landing. In the same year, J. W. Snowball and J. J. Perkins opened a general merchandise store on the original settlement site. On January 1, 1854, Captain J. D. Updegraff opened the Yolo House hotel in the town. Visitors were brought to the hotel from Sacramento by steamboat for $10.00 per person.
In 1860, D. N Hershey and George Glasscock opened a brick built hotel to replace the Yolo House. By 1890, a branch line of the Southern Pacific Railroad was completed and a bridge crossed the Sacramento River at Knight’s Landing, shown as “East Grafton” on railroad maps, ending in Marysville. By 1933, SR-133 passed through the town and the current drawbridge was built then and expanded in 1949.
The Snowball and Hershey families were involved in two significant court cases involving the assessment of fees by a reclamation district. Both families claimed that the local reclamation district was assessing fees for levee repair which were out of proportion to the total cost of repairs. The families alleged that since the Board of Directors did not know what the final cost of the repairs were going to be, they did not have to pay the assessed fees. The two cases, Reclamation District v. Hershey et al, 160 Cal. 692 (1911), and Reclamation District No. 730 v. Snowball, 160 Cal. 695 (1911), were both found in favor of the reclamation district.
After SR-133 and SR-45 were completed, there was little need for steamboats and trains. Knights Ferry began, like many other small towns do, to decline. By 2009, the only school in town closed. A year later, a charter school took over the property. The Knight’s Landing cemetery is the purported resting place of Charles Earl Boles, better known as “Black Bart”. If his remains are interred in the cemetery, his grave is unmarked.
There are two places to eat in Knights Landing. There is Las Maracas Mexican Restaurant (9540 Locust St. Knights Landing, 530-735-6333) which has excellent carnitas and is open for take-out from 8:00 am until 3:00 pm daily. The other is Stingrayz Marina and Bar across the river from Knights Landing proper. It is a bar, boat landing and outdoor music venue with a limited menu. It is open on the weekends and was closed when I visited. There are many other options for refreshment in Woodland.
GETTING THERE: From 414 Mason Street, take Interstate 80 East toward Sacramento. From I-80 East in Dixon take the exit onto CA-113 north. Merge onto CA-113/I-5 North. Take exit 538 onto CA-113 North toward Yuba City. Stay on CA-113 N until you arrive in Knights landing. It is about a two and a half hour drive.