Friday, March 30, 2012

Discovery Bay

Discovery Bay Yacht Harbor, located about 20 miles east of Antioch, is a nice launch site to explore the southern area of the Delta.  There is a two lane boat launch which is free to use if you park and then carry your boat to the ramp.  If you decide to actually use the ramp with your vehicle then there is a $10.00 launch fee.
The morning looked promising in regards to weather yesterday.  It was overcast but no wind to speak of and the temperature was 68.  Though by the time we arrived at the launch the wind had picked up and the temperature was dropping.  We ended up paddling for about 2 miles into the wind which made for a great workout.  Coming back was nice as we had the wind at our backs.

Paddling opportunities from Discovery Bay include leisurely paddles around the harbor or you can venture out to Indian Slough and head east and then north towards Orwood Resort or head west towards Old River. There are endless miles to explore here but keep in mind it's a heavy speed boat traffic area.  Even with the weather not being the greatest and going midday on a weekday, there were quite a few boats out and a couple of water skiers.  I imagine the weekends would be quite a bit busier which might not make it the best choice if you would like a peaceful paddle.  I definitely want to visit again when the weather is more agreeable.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Brannan Island

I paddled this area in February 2012.  Brannan Island is a state recreation area that offers camping and boating.  It's located between the Sacramento River and  Three Mile slough.  The park has 10 launch ramps, bathrooms and picnic area.  The ramp faces Three Mile slough but if you paddle towards the swim area, which is north of the launch, you can make an easy portage across the road to Seven Mile slough.  Keep in mind the tides as they effect the current in the Delta.  We paddled down Three Mile Slough for about a mile and then decided to head back towards Seven Mile slough  because we realized if we continued it would be a lot of work paddling against the current at the end of the day.  When we reached the swim area we decided to take a lunch break and discuss our options.  We decided to take a look at Seven Mile slough and see what the portage and current was like.
It turned out to be an easy portage and there seemed to be no current so we grabbed our boats and headed into Seven Mile slough.  Because there was no current, the water was a dark reddish color that didn't look inviting.

 It turned out to be a nice leisurely paddle and we enjoyed the scenery.  We saw a few birds but we were surprised we didn't see more wildlife that day.

Here is some info from the California parks websiteBrannan Island
State Recreation Area is a maze of waterways through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. This park northeast of San Francisco Bay, has countless islands and marshes with many wildlife habitats and many opportunities for recreation, including boating, windsurfing and swimming.
One of the outstanding water-oriented recreation areas in the world, the area offers great fishing, including striped bass, sturgeon, catfish, bluegill, perch and bullhead. Frank’s Tract, a protected wetland marsh, is home to beaver, muskrat, river otter, mink and 76 species of birds.

There is no launch fee but it is $8 for day use.  For more info, check out their site here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Consumnes River Preserve

My eldest son and I paddled here in January this year.  What a wonderful place.  We finally spotted some Sandhill Cranes up close and many other birds.  We paddled south on Middle slough then headed east on the Consumnes River for a little while then decided to head northeast to explore Tihuechemne slough.  This is where we spotted the Sandhill Cranes.

The Preserves website has lots of information on activities and other things to do including a great paddling guide with map.

The following is taken from the Consumnes River website:

"It is the only remaining unregulated river on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. In its lower reaches, it flows through one of the biologically richest regions in California's Central Valley, before merging with the Mokelumne River to flow into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and eventually the Pacific Ocean. The Cosumnes River Preserve was created to safeguard much of this unique landscape.

The free-flowing nature of the river allows frequent and regular winter and spring over bank flooding that fosters the growth of native vegetation and the wildlife dependent on those habitats. More than 250 bird species, more than 40 fish species, and some 230 plant species have been identified on the Preserve. 

The lower Cosumnes River offers excellent flat water canoeing and kayaking opportunities during most of the year. Paddlers can enjoy a scenic glide through the river's sloughs and main channel, crusing along riparian forest, oak woodland and through wetlands teeming with wildlife. "

There are restrooms and free parking available and there is no launch fee.  It's a good idea to bring a cart to carry your boat to the launch site.  The visitor center has carts available to borrow if needed.

Westgate Landing - Mokelumne River

This trip was awesome.  A couple of friends and I participated in a tour with Dan Arbuckle, owner of Headwaters.  We went in early November to take part in the Sandhill Crane Festival which is held each year in Lodi, California.  The weather was beautiful and the river calm.  We didn't see any Sandhill Cranes up close but saw them from a distance passing overhead making lots of noise.  We also saw a beaver lodge and a couple of river otters playing around.

Westgate Landing Regional Park

Located on the Mokelumne River, Westgate Landing offers 14 R.V./tent campsites (no hook-ups available), a fishing pier, overnight boat docking (no launch available), picnic sites and ½ mile of river frontage.  There is no ramp available but you can launch from the dock but beware you'll need to carry or drag your boat up a pretty big levy to get to the docks.  There are restrooms and it is $5 to park.  From this spot you can explore Sycamore slough which is to the north of the park.  We didn't quite make it to Sycamore slough on this trip but it's my understanding that if you like bird watching that is the place to go.  I plan on going back here another time to check out Sycamore Slough.  To the south is Tower Park Marina Resort.

Lighthouse Marina & Resort - Mokelumne River

Lighthouse Marina & Resort is on the Mokelumne river in Isleton.  This is the first place we went to try out our kayaks on the delta.  We're avid campers and this was perfect for a weekend getaway in the fall.  The campground is very nice and the launch is right across the road.  We didn't cover a large distance but we had fun exploring Willow Berm Harbor and just paddling around.  This is also where I learned it's best to check the tide table before going on a serious paddle.  I learned the hard way it's not as fun to paddle upriver at low tide.

This is where I also learned not to put a non waterproof camera in your pocket.  I dropped my camera near the ramp in about 4 feet of water and was unable to find it right away.  After paddling for an hour we returned to the ramp and I was able to recover the camera.  I put it in a bag of rice for a little over a month and unbelievably it still works!  Now I only take my GoPro with a float attached so I have no worries.

If you camp at Lighthouse there is no fee to launch your boat but if you decide to come for the day it's $10 to use their boat ramp.  There are lots of other marinas nearby but I don't know what they charge to launch.  I look forward to returning to this spot and doing a bit more exploring.

Big Break

I thought I would start out with Big Break in Oakley. I enjoy kayaking at Big Break because it is relatively peaceful and there are few motor boats due to the depth. It appears to be a great place to fish for bass as I've seen others catch lots of fish but I haven't caught anything yet. There are a ton of birds to view such as Pelicans, Sand Hill Cranes, Herons and Egrets and lots of ducks. According to the East Bay Regional Parks District web site: "Big Break was once an upland farm, now submerged. It is a small bay or estuary at the edge of the San Joaquin River, and lies in the zone where salty seawater meets snowmelt and runoff from the Sierra Nevada mountains. The mixing of salty and fresh water produces an “edge effect” for increased habitat and species diversity. It makes Big Break a fine home or stopover spot for a wide variety of species, particularly birds and fish."

The park itself is very nice. There is free parking and restrooms available in the parking lot and near the launch site. The only downside to Big Break is the 1/4 mile walk from the parking lot to the launch site. It's paved but you definitely need a cart. If you want to avoid the hike then you can put in at Big Break Marina but they charge $10 to launch your kayak.
Once on the water you can head northeast toward the San Joaquin river or head west toward Dutch Slough and Bethel Island. The NOAA chart for this area is 18661.