Beyond Sacramento

You asked, we answered: What was West Sacramento’s ‘Cat Barge’ – and where did it go?

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Want to know more about the cities and communities in the Sacramento, California, area? Ask The Sacramento Bee questions in “Beyond Sacramento,” where you help decide what stories we should explore in the region.
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Want to know more about the cities and communities in the Sacramento, California, area? Ask The Sacramento Bee questions in “Beyond Sacramento,” where you help decide what stories we should explore in the region.

This story is part of our “Beyond Sacramento” series, where you vote on questions about our region submitted by readers, and The Sacramento Bee explores the winning question for a story.

The question by Twitter user @dooziewhy that won our first voting round was: “In West Sac there is a huge houseboat in the shape of a cat on the river. I would love to know the backstory!” Vote in our next voting round below.

For 25 years, a dilapidated barge with protruding roof structures and two large arch windows floated in West Sacramento’s upper Lake Washington.

Because of its peculiar look, it was given a nickname by local rowing crews and city officials: the cat barge.

But according to West Sacramento’s Deputy City Manager Jon Robinson, the barge was cleared from the lake in 2017 as part of a major derelict vessel cleanup project.

“It’s a long, twisted story,” but the barge was essentially the remnants of a former boat manufacturing business, said Chief Operations Officer of the Port of West Sacramento Rick Toft.

Over the years, the barge became surrounded by several other abandoned vessels, but “like any business that goes bankrupt, they often leave behind their facilities, their equipment, and they had no means to dispose of that barge,” Toft said.

The process was drawn-out to secure a legal judgment on the abandoned vessels from Yolo Superior Court and secure a contractor to demolish the barges, but West Sacramento’s port is now mostly cleared, Toft said.

Some West Sacramento residents may never have seen or heard of the cat barge before it was torn down because it was tucked away in the northern section of Lake Washington.

But older satellite images still show the cat barge and its companion vessels, proving it was no myth.

“It was a bit of a Loch Ness monster,” Toft said, “but we killed it.”

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Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers Sacramento County and the cities and suburbs beyond the capital. She’s previously worked at The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was the managing editor of The Daily Californian.

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