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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