Sign In

- Or use -
Forgot Password Create Account

Rare Map of a Little-Known 1870s Project to Connect Stockton to the Navigable Portion of the San Joaquin Map

Important and scarce map of the 1870s project that sought to connect Stockton and the San Joaquin Delta by way of a straight ship canal, thus increasing the city's economic output.

The map shows the route of the proposed canal cutting through wetlands and smaller branches of the San Joaquin. Landowners and subdivisions are shown, and many features are named. An inset shows a further proposed extension of the canal into the center of the canal. A further inset shows an average cross-section of the canal. 

The Stockton Ship Canal

This map shows the proposed route of the Stockton Ship Canal. Brought to the public's attention in 1870, the ship canal was proposed as a way of better connecting Stockton to San Francisco and the ports of the Bay Area. A note in the Stockton Independent from the 21st of May, 1870, suggests that:

The most important enterprise for the future welfare of Stockton is that of the proposed ship canal to allow large-sized vessels to come to our wharves.

A survey was commenced in the winter of that year under the direction of Army Engineer Colonel Barton Stone Alexander. He suggested a channel that would run through the low-lying delta islands and replace the sinuous San Joaquin with a straight canal more amenable to ship traffic. 

Alexander's survey showed that the diversion of from the San Joaquin for the Ship Canal would make all navigation above Stockton impassable. To counter this, he proposed directing water from Tulare Lake to replenish the river.

The ship canal was never built, as the surveys revealed that it required a cost of $3,000,000, although Alexander's surveys did show that it was, in theory, feasible. In addition, the growth of the railroads allowed for goods to be moved in and out of Stockton more easily, thus reducing the need for a canal. 

Stockton finally received a shipping canal with the Stockton Deepwater Shipping Canal, which dredged the San Joaquin River in the 1920s and opened the port to modern ocean-going vessels.


This map was formerly part of the holdings at the Bancroft Library, Berkeley, before it was deaccessioned and apparently acquired by a private collector.


We have been able to ascertain the existence of only two further examples of this map. OCLC lists three examples in different Berkeley institutions, which are most likely duplicates of the same example. We also locate an example at the University of the Pacific, in Stockton.

Condition Description
Backed on linen. Ex-Bancroft Library ink stamps in upper right and lower left. Some loss to image from abrasion in left and lower left of map, reinforced with linen. Additional abrasion around edges.