Friday, May 8, 2015

Antioch to Sherman Island Waterfowl Management Area

We had an amazing day on the water today! We launched from the Antioch Marina boat ramp just before 8:00 am and caught what was left of the slack tide. There was barely a breeze and only small riffles disturbed the water surface. We paddled across the San Joaquin River and headed east towards Kimball Island.

Cabin Slough

We paddled against a gentle current until we reached Cabin slough where we caught the outgoing tide that led us to an entrance into Sherman Island Waterfowl Management Area. I carried a marine chart and topo map and had planned our route ahead of time. I'm thankful that I also had the US Topo Map ap on my phone to track our progress with gps. I don't believe the physical map and chart have been updated lately and the invasive weeds had many channels blocked. In fact, the original route I had planned was impassable.

I highly suggest having a gps if you plan on exploring this area. The area has multitudes of sloughs and channels to explore but it is very easy to get lost or disoriented. We ended up following a channel north that opened up to more small waterways and the gps with the Topo map ap helped us find open water.

Once in open water we headed to a small island with a nice sandy beach to stretch and have a snack. There are actually two islands across from Sherman Island County park that make nice stops when the tide is low enough.

Sacramento River

After a short break we headed southeast following the riprap to Mayberry Cut. Once we reached the cut we stayed left and followed the edge of  Donlon Island until we reached an opening and decided to do some more exploring. We ended up spotting a raccoon walking on top of primrose to reach a tule covered island. Fish were jumping all morning and Caspian terns were catching lunch. We exited Donlon Island and made our way back to the San Joaquin via Mayberry Cut.

If you stay on Mayberry Cut the current here can be very strong as it meets the San Joaquin River. It was moving at least 2 knots as we paddled and there were lots of eddies and swirling currents that kept our attention. We saw 4 otters swimming against the current next to shore and then we spotted them on the muddy shore but when they saw us they quickly returned to the water and disappeared.

We reached the San Joaquin and it was moving at a good clip so we caught the current and it made for an easy ride home. This area is so beautiful and has unlimited exploring possibilities. At lower tides there are many potential landing spots. I am blessed to have this true wilderness area in my backyard!


Sherman Island Waterfowl Management Area

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Disappointment Slough, Tinsley Island & Fern Island

It was another beautiful day on the Delta! We launched from Kings Island Resort at 10:15 with low tide predicted at 11:00 am.  The temperature was in the mid seventies and there was a gentle breeze to keep us cool.

Disappointment slough  was anything but a disappointment. The slough  was dotted with many small islands surrounded by coots, ducks, heron and  egrets. We made our way to Tinsley Island in just under an hour.

Tinsley Island is a private island owned by the Saint Francis Yacht Club. We paddled around the island ever so quietly taking in the lush green vegetation and the elegant yachts moored at the docks. The only sound was the gentle splash of our paddles and the chirping of swallows and other birds filled the air.

After we rounded Tinsley we found a lovely beach on Fern Island where we enjoyed a quiet lunch. After lunch we continued our paddle around Fern island where we discovered the Delta Yacht Club and a beautiful old restored tug boat called the Brave Duck. I love wooden boats. There's something about them, a charm, that gives each a unique character and personality.

Fern Island was amazing. The island is flooded and paddling within the island we met up with  a flock of white pelicans. There were also coots and heron and egrets and I even spotted an osprey. Fern Island is adjacent to Headreach Island which is next to Tule Island and there were many entrances to hidden passages that just begged to be explored. We entered one such passageway and I escaped near disaster as my boat slid on top of a submerged steel fence post. I quickly reached a narrow beach to check the bottom of my boat and make sure I hadn't sprung a leak but in my haste I dropped my GoPro and hadn't noticed it float away. Thankfully after a brief search, Gina located my camera and we carefully exited the area.

We passed the easternmost tip of Fern/Headreach/Tule Island and entered the Stockton deep water channel. I'm amazed how large ships can pass through what seems like a small channel. As we entered the channel we spotted a couple of geese with some new babies. We tried to catch up to them but the current was moving at a pretty fast clip against us so we decided to cross the channel and make our way home.

We covered just over 8 miles and I look forward to returning to do some more exploring!

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Paddling & More....

The past couple of weeks have flown by and it's hard for me to believe Spring has sprung. We've taken advantage of the warm weather and have been paddling our hearts out.

A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to guide 31 paddlers, most of whom belong to the Sacramento Paddle Pushers, to Franks Tract, Old River and Sandmound Slough. It was an awesome sight to see so many kayaks and one canoe on the water exploring Bethel Island! We started out with flat water but when we reached Franks Tract the wind had picked up and we encountered some good chop which livened things up a bit. We had several yachts pass us by giving a chance to surf for those that dared. We spent several hours exploring and everyone had a great time.

The kids have been on spring break so we spent time kayak fishing and picnicking on sandy Delta islands enjoying some family time.

This past weekend my oldest daughter and I participated in Sierra Rescues' 16 hour Wilderness First Aid and CPR course in Coloma. We are now certified in WFA and CPR. If you are interested in taking one of their courses, I strongly encourage you to check out what they have to offer. Our instructor, Jess, made the class a fun learning experience and we'll definitely return when we need to re-certify.

Be sure and check our calendar as we have some great tours coming up including our Moonlight Paddle on the Delta April 4th. We rescheduled our special Elkhorn Slough tour for May 9th which is a must do paddle if you enjoy lots of wildlife. We also have rentals available with advance notice and we'll even help plan your paddle and drop the boats and gear off for you!

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Our third attempt to reach Collinsville was a success! It was an absolutely amazing day to be on the water.

We launched from Sherman Island County park at 2:30 and paddled with the outgoing tide on glassy waters. There were showers earlier in the morning and the sky was filled with beautifully textured clouds. The sun peeked through the clouds once in awhile lighting up the windmills dotting the deep green hills. As we paddled closer to Montezuma Island, a stiff breeze came up against us and the waters became quite choppy very quickly.

We attempted to pass through Montezuma Slough on the north side of the island but decided to turn around due to the low tide and hyacinth. I'm not sure if that part of the slough is navigable, maybe at a higher tide. Montezuma Island has quite a few sandy beaches covered with driftwood that make for a good lunch or stretch stop. As we left the island behind us we could see Collinsville about 500 yards away. The tide had changed and we now paddled against the current and a headwind but we were determined and after some effort we made it to our destination. The shore-front was lined with very tall pilings and high docks that reminded me of a commercial fishing port. We saw a few buildings but no people as we searched the shoreline.

According to Hal Schell's Guide to Cruising the California Delta, the sleepy town of "Collinsville was named after C.J. Collins, who settled in the area in 1859 and surveyed for the town in 1861. Collinsville had even earlier beginings. Between 1846 and 1849 L.W. Hastings ran a ferry from the Collinsville area to Contra Costa and it is thought to have been the first ferry on either the Sacramento or San Joaquin Rivers." At one time Collinsville was home to nearly 500 people and "was a regular port of call for steamboats, a thriving fishing village where Italian was heard everywhere. It had at least two fish canneries, hotels, saloons and other businesses."

There is so much history among the delta just waiting to be revisited. As I paddle along sandy shores and tule covered islands, I imagine what it must have looked like 200 years ago. I don't think too much has changed when it comes to Collinsville.

After a few pictures we turned around with the wind at our backs and headed to Montezuma Island for a snack and stretch break. It was nice to relax on the sandy, driftwood covered beach. After our little break on the beach we launched back onto the Sacramento River and headed back to the put in. The wind had died down but there were some nice surfable waves that helped move us along at a good clip.

It was a very relaxing day on the delta. Next time I plan on paddling a little further up Montezuma Slough along Van Sickle Island. The Delta offers an endless supply of paddling opportunities where sights and sounds change every time you hit the water.

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Monday, March 9, 2015

Wimpy's Run!

We had a great trip down the Mokelumne River yesterday for Wimpy's Run! After figuring out the shuttle, we finally got on the water just before 2:00 pm and rode the outgoing tide to Wimpy's Marina.

The weather couldn't have been better as we launched from the Cosumnes River Preserve. The wildlife must have been in hiding because we didn't see much other than some turtles and a Great Blue Heron. I threw my fishing line behind me and trolled down the river but never got a bite. The lack of wildlife didn't spoil the day because just being on the water surrounded by lovely scenery was enough.

We traveled just over 5 miles and made it to Wimpy's in time for an early dinner. The food was delicious and the company even better and I can't wait to do it again!

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Snodgrass Slough

We paddled until we could paddle no more. It was a stunning day on the Delta for our "Wednesday Wandering."

We launched from Delta Meadows in Locke at 10:25 am with high tide predicted for 11:49 am at New Hope. The small boat ramp was surrounded by some tiny green plant life floating on the surface but it was easy enough to paddle through. There wasn't much hyacinth which was my main concern because it can make launching or landing impossible. The sun was shining brightly and there was no breeze to speak of as we paddled north on Snodgrass Slough.

Our plan was to see how far up the slough we could get and see if we could reach Stone Lakes. We paddled with purpose as a sea lion surfaced behind and then passed below us. We continued to follow him most of the trip up the slough. The sounds of Sandhill Cranes soon filled the air and as we looked above we saw a flock of at least two dozen pass overhead. A Red Tail Hawk circled above the glassy water and Cormorants spread their wings to dry as they rested on bare branches. Greater and Lesser Egrets, Night Heron and a Great Blue Heron  also blessed us with their presence. Turtles leaped off half submerged logs as we paddled quietly past them and hundreds of coots accompanied our journey. The day was filled with almost magical encounters with God's precious creatures.

We entered the heart of Snodgrass Slough after passing under the Twin Cities bridge. The levies were lined with varying types of trees and brush. Tule also hugged the edges of the levee and blackberry bushes abounded. The waterway itself widened and it felt like we were on a small lake. The slough is surrounded by farmland and we came upon a couple of places that looked as if they could be parks but in actuality were private property with signs posted no trespassing. We paddled on and the slough became narrower with each progressive stroke. Tree branches hung over the water and small side channels appeared like private rooms beckoning to be explored. After paddling a little over 6 miles we finally reached a dam and could go no further. We exited our boats and climbed a steep hill to see what was on the other side of the dam. We had made it to the edge of Stone Lakes.

We returned to our boats and headed back to a spot we felt would make a good lunch spot under the shade of some trees. After refueling we paddled with the current back to the put in. We met our sea lion friend halfway back and it looked like he found a good fishing spot so he was too busy filling his tummy to take notice of us. We almost missed the channel that would take us back to Delta Meadows which reminded me to be sure and take note of landmarks when paddling this area. It's easy to get lost in this beautiful mesmerizing stretch of the Delta.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Chipps Island

Wednesday my Son and I made a quick jaunt to Chipps Island. I had planned on a much more in depth exploration but I'll be putting that on my calendar for another day. The weather has been incredible and it was great to get out on the water even for a couple hours.

Chipps Island lies a little over a half mile northeast of Pittsburg and is bordered by the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin River to its' south and Honker Bay to the west. We launched from the Pittsburg Marina at 1:40 pm with low tide predicted for 2:45. The current was predicted to flow at just over one knot. The water had a few ripples with barely a breeze blowing from the southwest.

Once out of the protection of the marina we picked up speed rather quickly with the current pushing us along at a good clip. I had planned on paddling to Mallard Island before making the crossing but with the water moving faster than I expected I decided to cross when we reached the Power Plant. The crossing was just over a half mile but it turned out to be one that required our full attention. Before crossing we made sure the coast was clear, that there were no ships in the distance heading our way. We passed a huge sea lion resting on the red navigation buoy and proceeded quickly across the shipping channel. We encountered a huge eddy, a couple of boils and even a whirlpool forming. I must say I felt much more relaxed when we reached the shoreline of Chipps Island.

When we reached the shore of Chipps Island we discovered an opening that led to another opening to a long slough. We kept an eye open for a beach or somewhere safe to land as I was having some issues with my kayak seat and wanted to readjust it. All we found was mud so we turned around and headed east along the shore to see what we could find. We paddled to Spoonbill creek but still had not found any kind of beach. We did find a small cove with the edge covered in a thick grass like plant that my Son was able to climb and bring his boat up to rest. I decided to stay in my boat and attempt to fix my seat. We sat around for awhile waiting for the tide to change or at least slow down some so we wouldn't have to paddle against it.

As the current subsided we paddled back to the Pittsburg marina enjoying a much calmer river on our way home. The same sea lion was still resting on the red buoy as we passed by, looking like he was enjoying his nap in the sunshine.

Chipps Island has many sloughs and inlets to explore and I look forward to returning.

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Many people think of the Delta as purely flatwater and that could be a dangerous thought to assume. Some areas of the Delta are more protected than others. Wherever there is moving water you must use caution and be prepared to deal with changing conditions. The sheer volume of water that passes through the Delta is mind boggling, then add tidal influence and wind and you can experience some extremely challenging conditions. I strongly suggest kayak instruction including self and assisted rescue techniques. Know the area you'll be paddling and check tides and weather before leaving your house.  Carry a cell phone in a waterproof case and/or a VHF radio. Dress for immersion or at the very least carry a spare set of clothes in a drybag and always leave a float plan with family or friends. The Delta is a wonderful and beautiful place to paddle but be sure to show it respect.

Delta Kayak Adventures offers Introductory Kayak classes and private instruction and leads tours all over the Delta region.