Fire burns old Red Barn Pier...

Ken Jones

Staff member
We used to get quite a lot of reports in regard to the fishing at the tiny Red Barn Pier, reports primarily dealing with sturgeon from the pier. Just recently Redfish mentioned it during a talk we were having. Now it's gone. One more pier that's history.

Fire burns old Red Barn Pier, ignites history lesson on Belden's Landing

Daily Republic, Fairfield-Suisun City, California
December 6, 2022
Todd R. Hansen

BELDEN’S LANDING — An old red barn used to stand along a nearby Suisun Marsh shoreline, across the Montezuma Slough from what is now the Belden’s Landing Water Access Facility.

A wooden pier is all that really remained at the site, and now it is all but gone – lost to a recent fire.

“I went out there to see if some of my old friends were out there,” said Bob Cummings, who instead found the pier had been burned to the point he could not take his wheelchair out there. That was a couple of weeks ago.

He went out, again, Sunday to see if there had been any repairs done, and nothing has changed. It was not immediately clear who owns that property.

Over the years, as those who remember the old red barn tell stories, those stories sometimes become misidentified and the Belden’s Landing site, for some, has come to be the same as the location of the old red barn.

But Belden’s has its own history, one that goes back to the 1930s when Bill Vestal operated a boat rental business called Bill Vestal’s Place.

“The Beldens had 100 boats and a restaurant and bar called ‘Jim Belden’s Place.’ The wooden building had Coco-Cola signs displayed prominently along its roof and painted on its side,” a Daily Republic article states. “Back in those days, a ferry and not a bridge took autos on Grizzly Island Road across Montezuma Slough.”

The Beldens operated the private launch until 1958 when they sold it. The place was renamed Montezuma Harbor, which burned down in the late-1960s or early 1970s, according to the newspaper article.

Boaters still used the concrete ferry ramp to launch from, but the site as a whole became overgrown with vegetation and was used for illegal dumping.

“By 1987, the state Department of Fish and Game decided it wanted to build a boat ramp along Montezuma Slough at approximately the Belden’s Landing site. It had trouble getting the necessary permits from its federal counterpart, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That agency saw Belden’s Landing as habitat for the rare salt marsh harvest mouse and Delta smelt,” the Daily Republic article states.

“Finally, the parties came to an agreement which called for turning 5 acres adjacent to Belden’s Landing into tidal marsh. The state Wildlife Conservation Board, state Department of Boating and Waterways. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Solano County contributed money toward the boat launch project.”

The new boat ramp opened in 2002 – holding onto the historical Belden name.

The county and the Solano Resource Conservation District, in 2019, received a $93,000 grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation to continue efforts to improve the facilities at Belden’s Landing and to eradicate the corn-looking phragmites and replace it with native species, including pickleweed – part of the work that was completed this past summer.

Chris Drake, the county Parks Services manager, said fighting off the invasive species is an ongoing battle that may never really go away.

The work also included improvements of the boat launch to be more friendly for kayakers, canoers and to others launching similar vessels. Other improvements were made to the fishing pier, picnic area and tidal steps.

A map of the 7-acre park, which includes the tidal area, was put in so visitors could learn about the area’s natural history, too

More than 20,000 visitors came out to the landing in the years leading up to the pandemic. However, the pier was closed at that time due to damage from the Branscombe Fire. Activity is returning, and despite the rains Monday, there were folks launching into the slough.

The Belden’s Landing Water Access Facility has since been made part of the San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail, which is expected to bring even more visitors to the Solano County facility.

Red Fish

Well-Known Member
-Not such a great loss Ken. That small wooden structure was smaller than the dock you had on the backside of your house in Lodi.
You can still fish off the bank right in front of Red Barn and to the sides and the parking area/porta-potty is still available.

-Also, I sent you a picture of one of the other shore spots that are available, as there are a few including right under the Montezuma Slough Bridge.
It would be nice to see photos of the historical area of Red Barn. I started going to Grizzy Island fishing the exact area of Belden's Landing/boat launch in about 1988 (the time they were just getting the idea for 2002 landing) when it was just a dirt embankment with a lot of snags you could fish off of to the east of the Montezuma Slough Bridge.
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