John Sutter, a central figure in California's gold rush and Sacramento's early development, would hardly recognize his embarcadero today. Located just north of the present I Street bridge, Sutter's landing in 1848 was little more than a three-hundred-foot sand bar. Following the gold discovery at his Coloma sawmill, hundreds of ocean-going sailing ships crowded Sacramento's waterfront.
Too large for river travel, these ships were replaced by smaller one- and two-masted vessels which soon gave way to steamboats. By 1854 the foot of K Street hummed with activity, and the "city of the plain" emerged as the most important shipping terminal in the gold region.
In the 1860s, Central Pacific Railroad constructed an extensive docking facility and freight yard by the river between H and K Streets. In 1910 CP's successor, Southern Pacific, raised its entire waterfront 10 to 15 feet and built a concrete wall along the river from I to R Streets. With the growth of highways, the waterfront declined, and now visitors to Old Sacramento see a partial restoration of the 1860s "scene."