Thursday, June 24, 2010

Kayak Lower American River

The lower American River appears to be a nice easy run, suitable for an fun trip on a kayak.

Here is a very well done video and article by the Sacramento Bee documenting a paddle down the lower American River:

A good article in the Sacramento Parent Magazine:!%20Kayaks%20Ahoy!.htm

Excellent write up on CA Creeks for the Lower American River:

Nice detailed map of the American River Parkway, with facilities located along Lower American River. Zoom in really big to see the details. Because the map has so much details, I haven't figure out how to print it out on multiple sheets of papers.  The map has too large to see on a single sheet of paper.

Another descriptive story from the Sacramento Bee:

When I do a new river for the first time, I like to follow the route that rafter take.  I do this for several reasons:

1. It guarantees that there will be plenty of raft traffic so in case of an equipment problem, help easier to get
2. I can read the description of the raft run to judge the level of difficulty
3. There is always a shuttle that takes rafters back to the starting point
4. I may have friends who don't own a kayak and would like to rent a raft to do the trip together

The River Rat offers all of the above benefits. The shuttle service is $4, but I haven't verified whether they will take someone who did not rent a raft from them:

There's even a map showing the trip. It's quite fuzzy, but it appears that:

Put-in: Sunrise Blvd
Take-out: William B. Pond Recreation Area at the end of Harrington Drive/Kingsford Road
Distance: about 8 miles


Friday, June 11, 2010

Awesome Places to Kayak According to Tom Stienstra

This his 2008 article, Euphoria Along the Waterfront - Kayaking Across the Bay Area, outdoor journalist Tom Stienstra talks about all things kayak. Here are his picks of great places to kayak in the San Francisco Bay Area:
  • The prettiest sunset - spring evening in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta
  • The first time spotted a peregrine falcon - in the Napa-Sonoma Marsh
  • The first time a sea otter pop up only a foot away - Elkhorn Slough
  • Irreplaceable moments - near Angel Island in San Francisco Bay and going into the calm waters of Ayala Cove, entering Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe
  • The easiest places to try kayaking - Sea Trek's beach in Sausalito, South Beach in San Francisco (and then paddling into McCovey Cove), Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay, Elkhorn Slough at Moss Landing and Tomales Bay out of Inverness
  • The best spots for bird-watching - the Napa-Sonoma Marsh, the delta, Petaluma River, Suisun Marsh and lower South Bay out of Alviso
  • For wildlife - Tomales Bay seeing the elk at Pierce Ranch, Elkhorn Slough for the sea otters
  • Overall beauty - Drake's Estero at Point Reyes
  • Bay Area lakes with kayak rentals: Lake Merritt in Oakland, San Pablo Reservoir near El Sobrante, Lake Chabot near San Leandro, Lake Elizabeth in Fremont, Shadow Cliffs Lake in Pleasanton, Del Valle Reservoir near Livermore and Lake Cunningham in San Jose
Here is the full article:


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kayaking in the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta

The California Delta is a huge body of water formed by the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers: 11,000 sq. miles total area, 70 islands, and 700 miles of waterway.  I don't know about you, but I think that a body of water deserves to be explored, particularly if it has islands and marshes. Amazingly enough, outside of a few isolated references, there is a total lack of write ups about this huge area.

One of these day, I will be out there exploring the area in my inflatable kayak, but for now, I'm settling for collecting what little information other have written about it:

[1] Kayak from Discovery Bay to Orwood Resort

This is probably one of the best, if not the best, description of kayaking in the California Delta. Discovery Bay is a nice 1/2 day of exploration on its own, the waterways reminds me of the Foster City Lagoon.  Anyway, this paddle starts from Discovery Bay and ends up at a restaurant at Orwood Resort.

[2] Euphoria Along the Waterfront - Kayaking Across the Bay Area

This 2008 article by outdoor journalist Tom Stienstra mentions Suisan Marsh in the Delta as the best place for bird-watching:

[3] California Delta Chamber and Visitor's Bureau

They have a short but nice description of place to kayak in the Delta.  This is the list:

(1) Sevenmile Slough
(2) Old River
(3) Middle River
(4) Cosumnes River
(5) Mokelumne River
(6) Lost Slough
(7) Brannan Island State Park's guided canoe program

The description text is in the middle of their web page, so scroll down or search for "kayak" on the page:


Monday, June 7, 2010

Kayak groups in San Francisco Bay Area

If you like kayaking, no doubt you either (1) have a lot of friends who go kayaking with you, or (2) are looking for people to go kayaking. Something about exploring mysterious and sometimes turbulent waters calls for kayaking buddies. You never want to find yourself flipped over in a place where your screams cannot be heard (I am over-dramatizing it a bit).

If you belong to the latter group, you might find the following information useful. I am going to link to a number of kayaking groups/clubs that you can join and go kayaking with other people.

1. Kayakers' Alliance meetup group

My favorite, this group has a nice mixture of kayakers who own their own kayak and those who don't. Paddles are held in locations all over the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Many outings are done at locations where one can rent a kayak. Some events are held where there are no rentals. It started only a few months ago but has grown to become one of the most active.

2. Lodi Paddle Club meetup group
3. North Bay Kayakers meetup group
4. Northern California Kayaks - Suisun City meetup group
5. Sacramento Paddle Pushers meetup group

6. Western Sea Kayakers (WSK)

This is a "real" club in the sense that they charge a due and have meetings.

7. San Francisco Bay Area Sea Kayakers (BASK)

This is another "real" club in the Bay Area.

If you know or other kayaking organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area, please let me know and I will add to this list.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Grand Opening Day of Alviso Slough Boat Ramp

 The only on-water photo I can find anywhere for Alviso Slough. Hopefully, after the grand opening, there will be many more.

It's finally here. After multiple delays, the new Alviso Marina Boat Ramp is going to officially open on June 5th, 2010, and a big party it is going to be. Organizers have estimates that there will be up to 1000 people and 100 kayakers.

Here is the official flyer from Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Corteses's office. They are the ones throwing the party for the Alviso Boat Ramp grand opening:

This site has the latest information about the opening day activities and schedule. You can sign up for the kayak event and receive email updates from the organizer:

Right now it appears that the organizer is not sure when his group will paddle out on the slough. I am sure he will announce it in his email update. However, the Kayaker's Alliance is having a meetup at 1 PM on opening day to paddle the 4 miles to the bay and back:

Since few people have kayaked the Alviso Slough, we will find out the conditions as we go. I think the primary issues are:

(1) Water depth at low tide - I've heard the minimum is 1-1/2 feet to 3 feet at low tide. Will that be enough for kayaks, particularly those with a rudder or fin?
(2) Sharing the waterway with motor boats - is it wide enough at low tide?

Update 6/5/10:

The estimates were correct. It was a big party with about several hundred people present. There was a live band, lots of booth and free cheese burritos. Several TV stations were doing live news coverage there.

The ramp was as good as boat ramps get. Thoroughly modern with two large floating docks. Everyone who I talked to were ecstatic that a ramp like this is finally put in at Alviso Marina. One older couple told me that they used to fish two feet long sharks and sturgeons in the bay a long time ago when the old docks were operational.

The Alviso Slough was nicer than I anticipated. It was both wider and deeper than I thought. To answer my own questions:

Water depth at low tide - no problem for kayak, or motor boats for that matter. I saw several motor boats launching an hour or two past low tide with no problems.

Alviso Slough wide enough for both motor boat and kayaks - yes! No problem at all unless you are go

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are some to prove it.

 The entrance to Alviso Marina with an old beached houseboat in the background

The party at the Alviso Marina Boat Ramp opening day

The Alviso Marina probably hasn't seen so many people since it first opened

With a live band

The first kayakers paddling off the new Alviso Marina boat ramp

Here is a Mercury News article describing the grand opening:

And a KPIX TV news report:


Kayaking Alviso Slough

  The entrance to Alviso Marina with an old beached houseboat in the background

A new set of boat ramps have been installed at the Alviso Marina which will enable kayaks and small boats to enter San Francisco Bay from San Jose for the first time in 20 years. With this convenient access point, I believer there will be many kayakers interested in paddling in Alviso Slough.  However, since there hasn't been a public access point in 20 year, not much has been written about it.

I was fortunate enough to participate in the grand opening of the new boat ramps. See my post

Grand Opening Day of Alviso Slough Boat Ramp

The slough is both wide and deep, making any kayak trips a breeze. Speaking of breeze, in spring and summer afternoons, it gets quite windy here due to the thermal drafts coming from the bay. Hot air in the central valley rises, causing cool air from the coast to be sucked in. Since most of the coast is separated by mountains, with the only opening at the Golden Gate, wind blows north to south starting at about 2 PM.

However, the wind at the boat ramp is not so bad, perhaps because the Alviso Slough is protected by tall levees.  The wind is particularly diminished at low tide where the kayak is riding several feet lower still.  The further out you go, the more you will feel the head wind.

Here are the first photos of the Alviso Slough from a kayak in probably 20 years:

The first kayaks paddling off the new Alviso Marina boat ramp on opening day

My Pathfinder getting ready to go

A Chinese dragon boat in the Alviso Slough

The slough is pretty wide at low tide and wider still at high tide

Incredibly peaceful inside of the Alviso Slough

An abandoned boat - you see a few of these around Alviso

A lot of birds in Alviso Slough, from sea gulls to endangered species

The marina boat ramp in the distance

The South Bay Yacht Club is just past the Alviso Marina boat ramp

The waterway gets a little bit narrower south of the marina

Here is the official web site of the Alviso Marina. Ignore the picture of the marina. That was taken 20 years ago.

A map of the water trail from the Alviso Marina to the bay along Alviso Slough:

View Alviso Slough kayak trail to the bay in a larger map
This map is not accurate enough for navigation use and is not intended for navigation.

Here are some additional useful links that describe the Alviso Slough Trail, which is adjacent to Alviso Slough.

The last 1/2 of this site has excellent large pictures of the Alviso Slough Trail (about 10 pictures), which follows Alviso Slough:

This site describes the Alviso Slough Trail and the history of Alviso:


Friday, June 4, 2010

Kayaking Merced River in Yosemite Valley

Downstream from Yosemite Valley, the Merced River is a tough Class 3/4.  However, inside Yosemite Valley, the Merced River is very peaceful.

Peaceful waters of Merced River

Several people have written about rafting the waters of Merced River in Yosemite Valley.  Here is a very good description:$25

Here is a short but nice video showing the peaceful water and Yosemite Falls (I believe) in the background.

Rafting Merced River in Yosemite Valle - Yosemite Falls in the background.

The flow of the river is too slow to be exciting for adults, but it can be a really great paddle to do with young kids. A good water fight will make it fun for everyone. Make sure to bring water cannons.

Kayaking the Merced River in Yosemite Valley has to be one of the tops in terms of beauty in surroundings. To say Yosemite is beautiful is probably an understatement. Out-of-this-worldly Valley of the Gods is more like it. Add to it kayaking down the beautiful river running through the middle. Words probably can't describe it.

Rafting season starts in June, which also opens the river for kayaking (if you bring your own kayak). The exact date varies by the combination of water temperature, air temperature, and height of the water.  The rafting page on Yosemite's web site has more information and current status:

You can call the Curry Village Recreation Center to find out details, and a live person will actually answer:

(209) 372-4386

Here you have it, all the information you need to kayak the Meced River in Yosemite Valley.  If you go, let me know how it is because one of these days, I will make it out there, too.