Sunday, April 17, 2016

Middle River to Mildred Island

I've been paddling quite a bit and haven't had a chance to do any write ups. I suppose that's a good problem to have. I'll start with one of my most recent new trips - paddling Middle River to Mildred Island.

This paddle was 9 miles round trip but could have been much longer with so many smaller islands and sloughs to explore. We launched from Cruiser Haven Marina and headed north with the outgoing tide and chose to turn right before going under the Orwood bridge owned by BNSF railroad. We made our way along the south side of the 7,000 plus foot bridge which protected us from the strong winds blowing from the north.

Once we reached Middle River we turned north and did our best to use the tule and marsh covered islands to keep us from paddling into the wind. We reached the Bacon Island bridge and we encountered hundreds if not thousands of swallows building their nests under the bridge. They were very busy as they darted back and forth with mud for their homes.

Mildred Island flooded and was abandoned in 1983 and is now home to many fish species. It's also a very popular anchorage for pleasure boaters throughout the summer months. There appears to be many beaches available for landing, at least at low tide. We only explored a sliver of this special island and were very pleased with what we found. There's definitely more to see here and I look forward to returning soon!

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Monday, February 22, 2016

South Fork Mokelumne

We had great weather for today's paddle on the South Mokelumne River. Low tide was predicted for 12:59 at New Hope Bridge and wind was supposed to be 5-7 knots. We launched from Wimpy's Marina at 1:00 and cruised with the downstream current. Wimpy's charges $5 to launch or $10 if you have a trailer.

The Mokelumne is such a beautiful river to paddle and this stretch of the river doesn't disappoint. There was less than a 3 foot swing in tides but this part of the river is fairly narrow and the current can really get moving. We didn't work very hard as we made our way a little over 3 miles to Beaver Slough. There were many different species of hawks who accompanied us along with a number of coots. We spotted a mink and several turtles on our journey.

After a little over an hour of floating, we reached Beaver Slough and found a small island with a sliver of beach to get out and stretch. The tide was changing so we took advantage of the incoming tide to help us home. We ended up paddling against a stiff headwind with a bit of chop in a few places. This area is definitely worth exploring and I look forward to returning soon!

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Old River to Mountain House Creek

For the first time in many days, the sun broke through the clouds and bathed us in its' 55 degree warmth. We launched from Rivers End Marina at  12:15 and paddled south on Old River. High tide was predicted at 12:29 at Grant Line Canal. Rivers End charges $10 to launch but they do have very nice facilities, including a little store and clean restrooms.

There are multiple directions you can paddle from this starting point but we decided to head south on Old River. There is a discrepancy on Google maps about which river runs south. Google has labeled it Middle River but according to NOAA chart 18661 it's actually Old River. Caution must be observed shortly after launch because this is where the intakes are for water sent to So. Cal., and the currents can be extremely dangerous near the gates. We were told they were pumping 3500 CFS Friday. There is no need to pass directly in front of the gates as you can make your way around Hammer Island and proceed in any direction you wish.

I was concerned with flow direction because the pumps can reverse flows but on this day, paddling with what was left of the incoming tide worked in our favor. We made our way at a leisurely pace while checking out the numerous little islands. Once on Old River we observed lots of tule lining the banks of the levy interspersed with many trees. We reached Mountain House creek about an hour after launch. We spotted something moving in the distance and paddled slowly towards it only to discover a duck decoy with movable wings on a some sort of mount. We promptly announced our presence and were jovially greeted by a hunter camouflaged in his aluminum boat. We apologized for our intrusion and he said that he was just getting ready to leave and asked if he could take our picture with his decoys. We were happy to oblige and then continued our exploration of this small creek.

After dawdling around the creek for awhile we made our way back to Old River and began our paddle home. We were accompanied by dozens of buffleheads and coots. Three unidentifiable owls swooped beside us gliding inches above the water before ascending into nearby trees where they were quickly chased from by a couple of agitated hawks.

We decided to attempt to paddle around the north side of Hammer Island before heading back to the launch. We soon encountered immense pockets of hyacinth and then were alerted to a large danger sign warning us of fast water. We decided to go back the way we came and followed a small boat through the thick invasive weeds back to the put in.

This is a lovely area to paddle with many exploration possibilities. I look forward to returning soon!

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Steamboat Landing

We had a wonderful paddle yesterday that actually turned into quite the adventure by the end of the day. Steamboat Landing, located on Sutter Island, lies directly across from the northernmost tip of Grand Island. Its' shore sits on Steamboat Slough, one of my favorite paddling spots on the Delta. Steamboat Landing is opening an eatery/deli/bakery this spring and I can't wait as I have reliable sources who tell me the food is amazing. They currently charge $5 per kayak to launch from their beach but will be raising prices in 2016. It's best to contact them before arriving and check their launch policy.

High tide at Snug Harbor was predicted at 10:10 am so I guestimated high tide to be approximately an hour later at Steamboat Landing. I knew the outgoing tide was going to drop about 3 feet which meant the water would be flowing at a pretty good clip while we were paddling. I had intended this to be a leisurely paddle, which it was for the first hour. It was a partly cloudy with rain in the forecast and a bit breezy at times. We paddled into a pretty stiff headwind the first hour and I thought it would be great to have the wind at our backs for our return.

Within ten minutes of launching we spotted a seal hunting for his lunch. The loud exhale of his breath broke the silence as we floated downriver. Not long after, we came across at least fifty goats grazing along the side of the levy. About a dozen Common Goldeneye floated about 100 yards in front of us and would take flight when we paddled closer. We were tempted to turn around a couple of times knowing we would have to paddle against the current to get back to the launch but we were entranced by the beauty surrounding us and decided to paddle until we reached Sutter Slough. We encountered a second seal making his way up the slough towards the Sacramento River. We had paddled just under 4.5 miles in approximately one hour of leisurely paddling by the time we reached Sutter Slough.

We turned around and headed to a beach hidden beneath some trees to stretch and refuel. We got back on the water with renewed energy and realized we were in for a workout. The water was now moving at least 2 knots downstream so we paddled close to shore and took advantage of eddies to assist our progress. We began to hear owls hooting as we paddled quietly next to the bank when suddenly a large splash a couple feet from my boat startled me. I didn't see the beaver until I was almost on top of him but he let me know of his presence. We paddled hard for the next 45 minutes knowing it would be dark in 30 minutes. For a time, I felt as if I was paddling within an oil painting. With the light growing dim, water like glass and the serene beauty surrounding us, it almost felt otherworldly.

Thankfully, we made it back to the beach about 5 minutes before it was pitch black. I always carry a strobe and flashlight with me but I had failed to check the batteries before we launched and had we needed the strobe we would have been out of luck.  This trip turned out to be a great reminder for me to not become complacent about my kit and to make sure I keep fresh batteries in my dry bag that I take on the water.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Donlon Island

We had a wonderful paddle earlier this week. One of the things that I love about the Delta is the endless paddling opportunities available so close to home. This past week we took some time to explore Donlon Island which is basically a small lake just north of Antioch.

We launched from Lauritzens with the ebbing tide and paddled across the San Joaquin River under the Antioch bridge to the easternmost tip of West Island. We waited for a tug boat pushing a barge upriver to pass before we crossed the shipping channel and found the entrance to Donlon Island. There is more than one entrance to the submerged island via the San Joaquin River but we chose the closest to the bridge. After entering you can choose your water trail. We veered right and were able to paddle most of the inner island without having to turn back. We had at least a 2 ft. tide and we encountered a couple of spots that were very shallow, probably impassable with less than a 2 foot tide.

I was struck by the lack of water hyacinth and lack of migrating waterfowl. I'm happy about the hyacinth because there are many  places on the Delta that are unboatable due to hyacinth. Usually by this time of year I'll be spotting lots of Sandhill Cranes, snow geese and coots. There are a number of coots but I have yet to spot any cranes. We did see a few egrets and blue heron and a seal kept a watchful eye on us as we made our way back home.

After exploring Donlon, we paddled across Mayberry cut and into the edge of Sherman Lake. The currents near Mayberry can be very strong. We found a water trail within Sherman Lake that brought us back to the San Joaquin where we finally caught a glimpse of an otter. We crossed the shipping channel once again to West Island where we found a nice sandy beach to stretch our legs.

By the time we got back in our boats the breeze had died and we were left with glass like conditions for our journey back to the put in. It was another amazing day on the Delta!

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Broad Slough - Antioch

I haven't updated my blog lately but that doesn't mean I haven't been on the water! The Delta provides endless paddling opportunities and below you'll find a recent trip report.

Last week was perfect for paddling Antioch, Broad Slough in particular. The San Joaquin River that flows past Antioch can often be rough and intimidating, especially during the summer months. It doesn't take much of a breeze to get 2-3 foot wind waves generated in this area but last week the wind was at 1-2 knots so we hit the water and paddled northwest.

High tide was predicted for 12:54 and max flood at 12:17 with a 1.62 knot current. We launched from the Antioch Marina at about 9:15 am and paddled against a gentle incoming tide with no particular destination in mind.

There was lots of activity on the bank as we paddled by the now closed Humphrey's restaurant. Fishermen were out in force targeting the salmon now moving upriver. We actually saw someone reel in a beautiful chrome salmon as we made our way past the piers. The tall ship, Lady Washington, was in town and taking visitors aboard the amazing vessel.

We crossed the river to Kimball Island and slowly made our way up Broad Slough with barking seals or sea lions being heard in the distance. The rumble of industry on the south shore filled our ears but the stark contrast of the quiet songs of birds among the tule won our attention. As we approached Sherman Island we stopped to watch a couple of otters hunt for their breakfast. We continued to paddle and eventually reached Point Sacramento, the northwestern most tip of Sherman Island. There, we spotted at least 6 more otters diving, eating and playing.

After a short break we turned around to catch the height of the flood tide to help us home. We made it back in less than half the time it took to get us to the Point.

I find there's nothing better than getting out in God's creation with a good paddle, great company and beautiful surroundings to lift your spirit and clear your mind.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Sacramento River - Long Island

We had a great adventure paddling the Sacramento River! We were on the water by 7:15 a.m. after launching from Rio Vista we crossed the shipping channel and  headed east up the Sacramento River. We caught the end of the incoming tide but the wind was picking up against us.

After entering the Sacramento River we glided at about 3 knots without even dipping our paddles. This part of the river is really beautiful, with the levees lined with all different types of trees. We paddled past Vieira's Resort and noticed some waterfront homes that we never knew existed. After passing Vieira's we crossed the river and entered a channel that runs behind Long Island. It's a beautiful and peaceful spot.

We almost made it around the entire island but water hyacinth hindered our progress. We turned around and made our way past the homes on Long Island via the Sacramento River. The wind picked up so we decided to start making our way back to the put in. We found a nice beach where we stretched our legs and fueled up on snacks to prepare for our adventurous return.

We had the outgoing tide in our favor but the headwind made for slow progress. Once we reached the main shipping channel the ebb tide and opposing wind made the upcoming crossing daunting. We waited a few minutes while three powerboats pounded their way through the swells. We decided to go for it and I wish I had my GoPro with me because it would have captured some great footage. We encountered 3 foot rollers with a few 4 footers thrown in from different directions. We all made it across without swimming but you wouldn't know that by how soaking wet we all were. 

Another great adventure on the California Delta!

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