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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Monday, June 29, 2015

Canoe & Kayak "Dream Your Adventure" Contest

For some time I have had a desire to explore the Delta more in depth and share what I find. I'm planning an expedition for 2016 where I intend to paddle as much of this vast area as possible. Canoe & Kayak magazine has a contest that ends July 21st that will award someone $10,000 to complete an expedition of a lifetime. I would appreciate if you would vote for my entry! You can vote once a day until July 21st. The Delta is a wonderful place to paddle and I want the world to know how beautiful it is so we can protect it. You can view my entry and vote here: 

Sunset Paddle

We had an amazing paddle Friday evening! We launched from Holland Riverside Marina and paddled around Beaver Island and then made our way up Rock Slough.

The wind was blowing above 12 knots but with the high temperatures the wind was refreshing. We saw Egrets, Heron and one beaver. The best part was watching the golden sunset lighting up the water with brilliant warm colors.

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Our next Sunset Paddle is July 10th.

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BASK Delta Paddle

If you are a sea kayaker or an aspiring sea kayaker and would like to paddle the greater San Francisco Bay Area and beyond then you need to join BASK. Bay Area Sea Kayakers is a club made up of volunteers who have a passion for paddling and sharing their knowledge and skills. The club promotes skill development and offers opportunities to hone your kayaking skills. All members are encouraged to contribute in whatever way they can. One way BASK members can contribute is to initiate paddles and the paddles can range from rock gardening to flat water trips around the bay area.

Last week I led a BASK paddle to Sherman Island and seven of us paddled approximately 8 miles from Antioch to Sherman Island County Park. We started out on calm waters at slack tide and headed to the maze of sloughs and marsh covered islands that make up Sherman Lake Waterfowl Management Area. After a stretch break on a sandy little island, we headed to the park for a restroom break. As we headed back to the launch the wind came up and made for a bumpy but fun ride home. It was a great day and I'm looking forward to initiating more Delta paddles!

After the paddle, six of us headed to Hazels for some grub. Hazels is a great little diner that offers old fashioned sodas and milk shakes. If you order the Willy Burger I can guarantee you won't leave hungry!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Middle River & Little Mandeville Island

I've been paddling quite a bit lately but this is the first chance I've had to post in over a month. I love the Delta! You can paddle the same area every day and each time you're on the water it's a new experience.

After launching from Holland Riverside Marina, we spent some time paddling around Little Mandeville Island and Middle River today. Our intentions were to make it to Mildred Island but we were doing more chatting than paddling and soon realized we weren't making much progress and the currents would soon turn against us. We reversed course and headed back on Middle River where we discovered a shady sandy beach where we could stretch and cool off. It was in the mid 90's today and the water felt great!

This area has so many small islands and coves that offer endless exploration. We saw a couple of flocks of White Pelicans, Great Blue Heron, Snow egrets and lots of turtles. The beach we stopped on was alive with the chatter of what sounded like hundreds of birds.

We made our way back paddling the southern edge of Little Mandeville until we reached Rhode Island. There's a small entrance on the north shore of Rhode Island where you can enter the center of the submerged island. I've paddled here several times but today it was a rather unpleasant experience. I'm not sure if it was due to the low tide or not but there was a really bad oily smell in the air and the current leading into the island was literally black. I've never experienced anything like this before and wish I knew what was the cause. We quickly departed the inner island and made our way back to Old River where we rode the tide and small wind driven rollers home.

Another awesome day exploring my backyard!

I've been kayak fishing here the past couple of weeks and the fishing has been great. Last week I caught nine stripers in  under three hours! They were all shakers and released for another day but two or three were nearly 18 inches and all of them put up a great fight.

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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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