Monday, June 18, 2012

Lake Berryessa

Lake Berryessa is not part of the California Delta but it's a wonderful place to kayak.  The following is an excerpt from "Nestled between Blue Ridge and Cedar Roughs, east of the Napa Valley, Lake Berryessa offers year-round recreation opportunities. Berryessa's water reaches temperatures of up to 75 degrees in the summer, making it an ideal place for water sports. Anglers enjoy fishing for both cold and warm water species, such as rainbow trout, bass, catfish, crappie, and bluegill. The Bureau of Reclamation provides two large day use areas (Oak Shores and Smittle Creek), Capell Cove launch ramp, and many smaller dispersed day use areas. The seven resorts around the lake are managed by concessionaires under contract with Reclamation and provide camping, day use and boating facilities. At capacity, Lake Berryessa stores 1.6 million acre feet of water and is one of the largest bodies of fresh water in California. The lake is 26 miles long by 3 miles wide, with 165 miles of shoreline. Reclamation and the California Department of Fish and Game jointly manage a 2,000 acre wildlife area along the east side of the lake. The Monticello Dam area at the southeast corner of the lake is one of the best local birding areas."

It had been many years since I visited Lake Berryessa and I thought it would be a great place to celebrate my birthday.  We had a late start Saturday because I couldn't make up my mind whether to brave the 100 plus degree weather.  Once I made up my mind, our family piled in the truck and took the scenic route to check out Putah Creek along the way.  From what we saw from the road, Putah Creek is a place I want to explore in the future.  We passed a couple of possible put ins and we observed many rafters and kayakers enjoying the creek.

We arrived at Lake Berryessa late in the afternoon but it was still 106 degrees.  We ended up at Coyote Beach in the Oak Shores area of the lake.  We quickly unloaded our boats and dragged them with my Wheeleez kayak cart to the shore. If you decide to explore Berryessa I suggest bringing a cart with you as it can be a long distance from where you park to the shoreline.  There are restrooms available in different areas around the lake but many are only pit toilets with no running water.  You also want to bring ample food and drinks as there are limited concession stands available.  We did spot a small market a few miles from the actual lake but we didn't stop and check it out.

Coyote Beach has a swim area roped off but we didn't like it because there was quite a bit of goose poop floating in the area.  The kids and I paddled out a ways and found an area that was clear and the kids swam while I paddled around.  I think this would be a great place to kayak camp. UPDATE: Kayak camping is only allowed if you kayak into a developed campground (of which there are only 4 on the lake, and none very close to Oak Shores). Camping anywhere else along the shoreline and islands is illegal, and no one wants a ticket for that!  Thanks RangerVic! For a map of Lake Berryessa and more info on camping click here.

We had a great afternoon and evening and look forward to our return.  Be aware that there are rattlesnakes in the area and we found one about 10 feet from our truck hiding out in a hole as we were packing up.  Be safe and keep on paddling!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pittsburg Marina to Browns Island

My daughter and I headed out to Pittsburg Marina to do a short paddle and explore Browns Island.  There was a gentle breeze with winds blowing about 5 knots.  The water was smooth as glass and the temperature was already 83 at 9:45 a.m..  Max flood was at 8:30 and the slack ebb was to begin at 11:21.

The Pitsburg Marina is a fairly large marina with three launch ramps you can use at no charge.  There are restrooms available and free parking.

We left the marina a few minutes after 10:00 and crossed New York Slough which is less than a quarter mile  wide.  We followed the south shore of Browns Island for about 10 minutes until we found the entrance to another slough that would take us north through the island.  We paddled a couple of minutes when we came upon another slough or cut to the east.  We decided to continue north to see what we could find.  I would definitely suggest bringing a GPS device as you can get lost in all the different cuts throughout the island.  I had my phone GPS and I'm glad I brought it!

We paddled about one half mile more until we reached the Sacramento River. We hung out there and had a snack while we watched a large cargo ship pass the Pittsburg Marina.  After our snack we headed back into the island and headed east.  My intention was to head toward the northeastern part of the island but we missed the cutoff.  So we ended up paddling through the winding slough toward the center of the island until I realized my mistake.  The temperature was climbing quickly so we decided we should head back to the marina.

We didn't see much wildlife on this trip but I imagine the fishing is probably good.  We passed what looked like a beaver lodge and there were lots of spots where it looked like some critters had made homes.  There were many wildflowers to see and it was a very scenic paddle.  I'd love to do it again when the temperature is a little cooler.  On the way back our entrance was blocked by some lily pads but we were able to paddle through them.  It did cause me to wonder if we had made a wrong turn but after checking my GPS I confirmed we were going the right way and we returned to the marina safe and sound.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Wimpy's Run

Departing Consumnes River Preserve

Wimpy's run is about a 5.5 mile one way paddle down the Mokelumne River from the Consumnes River Preserve to Wimpy's Marina in Walnut Grove.  After dropping our boats off at the put in we drove to Wimpy's which is only 7 minutes by car, to drop my truck off at the take out.  For more info about the preserve see my previous post.

It took us about one hour and forty-five minutes paddling at a leisurely but steady pace down the Moke.  The weather was perfect at 83 degrees when we left the preserve.  Any warmer and I think it would have been too hot.  The gentle breeze that was blowing also helped to keep us cool.  I got the idea to do this paddle from Dan Arbuckle from Headwaters when he posted it as a meet-up for the Lodi Paddle Club back in March.  I was bummed that I couldn't make it that day so I put it on my bucket list as a must do.  I am glad I did!  My four girlfriends and I, (which we now call ourselves the Lumbum crew for reasons I won't go into detail about-let's just say it has to do with an unplanned scenic route), thoroughly enjoyed our day on the water.

We left the preserve at 11:45 a.m. and headed south until we reached the Consumnes River at which time we headed west and entered the Mokelumne near the Thornton Road bridge. From there we paddled until we reached Wimpy's which was a welcome sight as I was starving.  We arrived at our destination at 1:30 and were quickly greeted by three noisy ducks who appeared to want a ride somewhere as they looked as though they wanted to jump in the backseat of my truck.

Jenny decides to take a nap

The only other wildlife we saw today was a Great Blue Heron which led us down the river to Wimpy's.  There weren't many people on the river today either.  We saw one bass boat and another small boat with a family fishing who said they caught a couple of stripers.  If you decide to do this paddle, make sure and bring plenty of water and a protein bar or snack of some sort.  It can get extremely hot in the summer and though the water is cool, it's not very inviting.  The scenery is beautiful and there is abundant shade available to take a rest near the bank but there isn't anywhere to land to stretch your legs until you get to New Hope Landing which is next to Wimpy's.

Lunch at Wimpy's was delicious and reasonably priced.  They have a beautiful view of the river so you can watch boaters coming and going.  I would highly recommend this trip and I can't wait to do it again!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Dow Wetlands and the Star Java

My friends and I had an exciting paddle this evening.  We left the Antioch Marina for the Dow Wetlands preserve, which is becoming a regular paddle for me because of its close proximity and it's free right now.  It's great to be able to get out on the water even if it's only for an hour or so.  Tonight's paddle was more challenging than normal due to 15-25 knot winds and what I would call "confused seas."  The wind blows hard pretty regularly in this area but tonight there were actually 2-3 foot swells coming from different directions which made it fun but challenging.  We launched shortly after the max ebb around 6:30 p.m. and headed into the wind towards the preserve.  We worked hard to get to the preserve but we were pleased to find shelter and calm waters when we arrived.
On this excursion we paddled south as far as we could and we're happy to see a family of otters playing about.  We counted five otters and we just floated and watched them until they disappeared under water.  The only other wildlife we spotted this evening were some ducks and a red winged black bird.  As we floated back towards the entrance of the preserve we were greeted by the cargo ship the Star Java passing through Antioch and into Broad Slough.  What a sight!  I looked it up on my marine traffic ap and discovered it's 198 meters long with a 32 meter beam.  I'm amazed that something that big can travel through a fairly narrow passage.

We headed back to the launch after watching the ship sail into the sunset.  We had the wind at our backs but the water was still very rough.  I tried surfing some of the waves but they were coming so fast it was difficult to ride them.  As we got closer to the ramp we watched a couple of jet skiers zip around.  The waves were so big the jet ski's were catching a lot of air.  I tried getting some shots of them jumping but it was difficult as I needed my hands on my paddle to brace for the waves. Another great evening on the water! 

Summer is Here!

A great night on the water near the Dow Wetlands preserve!  The temperature at 7:00 was 92 and it felt so nice to be cooled down by a gentle breeze on the river.  We paddled past the Dow Wetlands preserve towards Broad slough and just hung around a marsh island to take in the wonderful view.  Low tide was at 6:42 but the river was moving about 1-2 knots eastward.  We headed to the preserve and we're able to see a couple of Herons and a river otter.

After leaving the preserve we traveled at a brisk 6 knots with the help of the current back the the Antioch boat ramp.  We were also treated to seeing a family of river otters going the opposite direction.

I do believe summer has arrived and I have several areas that I'm looking forward to exploring.  I can't wait to see and share what I find!