Saturday, March 13, 2010

San Francisco Bay Area Kayak Put-In Locations

The San Francisco Bay Area is probably one of the most diverse places to kayak. You get the San Francisco Bay, of course, but you also get all of the coast on the ocean side, then there are the numerous lakes spread out in the South Bay, East Bay, and the North Bay. The Sierras is just an hour or two drive away and there await multiple rivers for some incredible white water kayaking.

Whether you rent or own a kayak, prefer ocean or river, live here or just vacationing, the following are excellent resources for finding out where to kayak in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

1. The California Boat Launch Ramp and Put-in Index

This Google Maps add-on shows exactly where you can go kayaking, down to the very last foot in put-in location in the map section. Because the map is zoom-able, it is very easy to find a place to put in in any given area or to check out the actual spot using satellite view. Some of these put-in locations have kayak/canoe and equipment rentals and guided tours, which should be accordingly describe in the description. This map is being continuously updated (slowly). If it only had a user rating section, it would be perfect! If you find a new place to kayak in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, don't forget to add it to the list.  Actually, it's for all of California, so add new put-ins accordingly.

2. San Francisco Bay Kayak and Canoe put-ins

This site is similar to the above but is for the San Francisco Bay Area only. The technology is a bit older so you can't zoom in, but the database is shared with the above. This one might still have a few place that #1 doesn't, but over time I think all of the put-in locations will be migrated over to #1site.

3. California Creeks

If you like river kayaking or canoeing, this is the site for you! It lists more than 165 river sections for various classes of rapids. The detailed description and the large clear photos are superb! This is a must go spot if you are planning a river kayak trip to a new run.

4. California Department of Water Resources
If you plan any sort of river kayaking trip, you need to visit this site. It provides all the critical flow details of major rivers, include current and historical data. Based on those, you can sort of judge a river's level remotely. I haven't totally figured out how to read the tables yet. If anyone is an expert and is willing to show me, please let me know.

5. Fishing Notes - Shows Lake Water Temperature

This site has an automated system to estimate the water temperature of a large number of lakes.  As far as I can tell, the estimates are pretty accurate. It makes a difference when choosing a lake for kayaking that includes diving in for a quick swim:

This is it for now. I will continue to update this list as I gather new information. 

Kevin T


  1. Hi Kevin,

    Your site is great! As a paddler new to the area I really like the putin site information. Thanks much.... I am an inflatable fan too, I assume you know of them, but a Nor Cal company that does a great job are the The Boat People IK specialists in Danville:

    When I found them while I was still in Arizona, they provided great mail order service and advice.



  2. Hi Greg,

    Thanks for your post. I accumulated all these web links through my search for places to kayak. I used to keep them in a private browser bookmark folder. One day I decided that it is much more useful if I make them public. Hopefully, someone else will benefit or there will be additional contributions to sites such as California Kayak Put-In Index.

    I was aware of The Boat People, but I didn't know that they are local. Thanks for the pointer.


  3. I would like to encourage an inflatable kayakers in the bay to keep a look out for any debris, either floating or sticking out of the mud. My brother was kayaking in an inflatable in Richardson Bay and was halfway off the Strawberry Point when he hit a barely submerged piece of debri (probably a stick or piece of rebar) the item punctured the kayak, and he was caught in an outgoing tide in a rapidly sinking boat too far off shore. Of course he made it back, but the boat was beyond repair, he was soaking wet and had his trip cut short dramatically..the only thing working for him was the wind, which helped his fight against the tide....please be careful out there, always tell someone where you are going, wear a pfd and carry a whistle or better yet paddle with a buddy in case you do get a puncture....happy paddling.

  4. Thanks for posting about your brother's story.

    It actually is make me more consistent with wearing my PFD. I used to just throw the PFD in the boat thinking that my inflatable kayak is so stable that it will never tip over. Now I think a puncture or leak is the bigger enemy and I always WEAR the PDF.

    My Pathfinders and Sea Eagle 330 each has 3 air chambers, so I image a single puncture will not sink the boat. However, the IK95's each has only 2 chambers - still won't sink but will take on water.


  5. I love how you've gathered so much useful information all into one location. I think I'll visit this post again and again. This is the reference on Bay Area Inflatable Kayaking!

    Tara Backman

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