Sea Kayaking in Central and Northern California  by Roger Schumann

Sea Kayaking in Central & Northern California Guide Book

by Roger Schumann (Falcon Guides)
Sea Kayaking in Central and Northern California  by Roger Schumann
Sea kayaking opens up a whole world of exploration. It's an exciting way to enjoy the beauty of America's coastal regions. In Sea Kayaking in Central and Northern California, readers are able discover the very best kayaking trips in the Pacific ocean. Drawing on the author's years of in-depth experience, Sea Kayaking in Central and Northern California is essential reading for beginners and experienced kayakers alike. This new edition is totally revised and updated.

© 2013 Roger Schumann /Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Sea Kayaking in Central & Northern California" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 54.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 54.

For novice and intermediate paddlers, the narrow gorge of Albion Cove, with its dramatic and scenic cliffs, offers even better protection than the more popular Van Damme; unfortunately, there are no sea caves until you leave this protection and round Albion Head. Calm-water paddlers can enjoy the shelter of the cove or explore several miles upriver along the quiet, tree-lined banks of the Albion River. Advanced paddlers will find this rugged stretch to the north of Albion Head riddled with some of Mendo’s best caves and rock gardens—and most challenging conditions.
Little River, CA - Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 1-8 miles
While this might not be the sort of place you’d be willing to drive hours out of your way to paddle, for South Bay locals Alviso Slough’s new launch facility is just way too convenient to pass up. Along with its proximity, it offers both a boat ramp and a low dock for easy launch access (so no more mud launches), a regularly dredged channel out to San Francisco Bay that’s navigable at any tide height, tons of birdlife to see along the way, and even wash racks (bring your own hose) and plenty of free parking. It’s great for a quick fitness paddle after work or a Sunday morning dawdle.
Alviso, CA - Birding,Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 1-8 miles
At 7 miles long, Anderson is the largest of the local lakes. Only 2 miles below its upstream neighbor on Coyote Creek, Anderson is a 2X version of Coyote Lake. It’s also narrow, straight, framed by rolling, oak-clad hills, and busy with powerboats on summer weekends, but quiet the rest of the time with “environmental areas” on either end. The southern end where Coyote Creek enters the lake is especially good at higher, early-season water levels, when you can paddle a mile or more past the bridge on E. Dunne Avenue, but plan your return to the launch ramp before the wind kicks up. One bonus here is the chance to see the Tule elk herd that frequents the northeast shore, members of which are often heard bugling during the fall rut.
Morgan Hill, CA - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 14
The very thing that makes paddling the Big Sur coast so difficult—its rugged inaccessibility—is precisely what makes it so appealing to some kayakers. If you can get your boat to the water, the paddling is excellent, but there are very few put ins—most of them are exposed to surf, rocky, and challenging. One exception is the sandy, protected beach at Andrew Molera. It is probably worth mentioning, however, that this exceptional beach is a full mile from the nearest parking lot. Anyone willing to carry a boat that far will be rewarded with the exceptional solitude and scenery this remote shoreline has to offer. Extensive kelp beds offshore are prime habitat for otters.
Big Sur, CA - Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 1-6 miles
Within a mile of Avila’s gentle, sandy-beach launch, the cliffs, coves, and caves begin. While such features are often reserved for more advanced paddlers, those around Fossil Point are tucked in a relatively protected location, and it is not very far back to Avila if the wind comes up in your face. In calm conditions this is a great stretch for intermediates looking to gain some coastal paddling experience and for beginners with an experienced paddler in the lead to get an introduction to the sometimes challenging realities that make coastal touring so interesting. Beyond Pirates Cove, not quite the halfway point, exposure increases, along with your level of commitment.
Avila Beach, CA - Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 1-4 miles
Bair Island Ecological Reserve, a 1,600-acre tidal marsh tucked away at the edges of urban sprawl, is a wilderness for the myopic: surrounded by city, traversed by power lines, but chockablock with shorebirds. And once you slip into its maze of narrow, winding channels, it’s not hard to lose oneself in the solitude. This area is especially convenient for South Bay residents looking for a local alternative to the long drive to Elkhorn Slough or Tomales Bay. New flow restrictors and levee breaches designed to restore original wetland areas are opening up new paddling areas, but creating much faster flows in many areas.
Redwood City, CA - Birding,Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 1-7 miles
This peaceful, emerald green estuary wandering through forested and undeveloped lands makes a great trip for novices or a sane alternative for all paddlers on those days when the sea beyond is raging. Because of turn-of-the-century logging, the redwoods now begin 2 miles upstream and remnants of the logging operations act as landmarks along the banks. Few fishing boats or powerboats venture here, leaving only those in human-powered craft to absorb the quiet, engulfed by serene lushness. When the ocean is calm, the mouth of the Big River offers excellent access to the area’s outstanding coves and sea caves for those comfortable launching through surf.
Mendocino, CA - Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 1-16 miles
Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds was filmed in nearby Bodega, and birds still flock to Bodega Bay to feed on the rich mudflats in the harbor. A boat channel bisects the harbor’s tide flats; small marinas, restaurants, and homes line the north shore; and parks, dunes, and grassy headlands complete the harbor’s circumference. Beginners and intermediates can enjoy a 4-mile flat-water loop inside the harbor, practice reentries and other skills, or play in the surf on a well-protected stretch of sandy ocean beach. Experienced paddlers can access miles of rugged open coast—especially interesting is the 13-mile stretch south from Goat Rock to Bodega Head.
Bodega Bay, CA - Birding,Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 1-6 miles
A bird-watcher’s dream, this shallow, salt marsh lagoon at the wild southern edge of Point Reyes National Seashore is simple to paddle at high tide, when much of its 2-mile length is accessible. At low tide, however, the extensive mudflats that hungry migratory birds find so enticing limit boating to narrow channels. Besides mud, a potential sticking point to paddling here may be its proximity to the backwater bohemian burg of Bolinas. Although most Bolinians are outwardly friendly, they prefer life off the beaten path, and undercurrents of reclusiveness persist—evidenced by the fact that no sign on Highway 1 marks the turnoff to their quiet village because locals tear it down. Beyond the lagoon the sandbar off its mouth is a popular place to practice kayak surfing in the often gentle waves, and the protection of Duxbury reef, the largest shale reef in North America, makes it a good spot for introductory coastal touring on calm days.
Bolinas, CA - Birding,Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 1-4 miles
Like most of the other lakes in the area Calero gets busy with powerboats on summer weekends, but it is less than a mile paddle across the lake from the launch ramp to the “no wake zone” in Cherry Cove. Most power craft shun this narrow, picturesque finger of water where oak-clad hillsides rise steeply on either side as you paddle up Cherry Canyon. Here birdlife is common, and the park has placed bat boxes, so check out the Full Moon Paddles run by Santa Clara County Parks.
San Jose, CA - Birding,Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 10
In the lee of Point Estero, the shoreline faces south for half a dozen miles, forming good shelter from prevailing wind and swell. The point’s steep cliffs give way to low bluffs, backed by a coastal bench or marine terrace. In front of this terrace, a second shallow platform extends well out to sea, forming an outer reef that absorbs the brunt of the waves and leaves a jigsaw puzzle of rocks scattered across the more-protected inner waters. This coincidence of southern exposure and shallow, rocky shelf creates one of the more extensive and most accessible rock garden areas in Central California. On calm days this area provides an excellent introduction to the fun of rock garden exploration, but there’s still more to recommend it.
Cayucos, CA - Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 1-11 miles
With its access to numerous flatwater day trips as well as overnight camping on the Point Reyes National Seashore, Central Tomales Bay is a favorite choice of local paddlers. As you paddle from Inverness toward the more exposed northern part of the bay, conditions become gradually more challenging. The first 3 miles to Indian Beach is well protected and scenic, following high bluffs that are cloaked in a forest of Bishop pines and punctuated every half mile or so by a sandy beach. Around Marshall Beach, the pine forest gives way to the brushy grasslands and the steep, rolling hills of Tomales Point. From here on the bay begins to widen slightly and campsites become available.
Marshall, CA - Birding,Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 1-15 miles
The convoluted shoreline of this 1,500-acre park stretches 3 miles along rocky bluffs backed by rolling hills of thickly forested oak woodland, offering panoramic views of San Pablo Bay and the East Bay hills. This series of points and small coves fringed with salt marsh creates great feeding grounds for the nearby heron and egret rookeries on Marin Islands Reserve, and narrow, winding channels give kayakers access to the marsh at high tide. Essentially undeveloped, the area retains much of the character (as well as several original structures) from the days when it was a Chinese fishing village. For a historical perspective, stop by the small museum near the launch beach.
San Rafael, CA - Birding,Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 1-10 miles
Three miles long, narrow and straight, Coyote Lake is surrounded by oak-covered hills. Although busy with powerboats on summer weekends, there are 5 mph “environmental areas” on either end, and it is one of only two lakes with a campground. When water levels are high, the Coyote Creek area on the south end is nicest, its cattail marsh full of bird life. On windy days, however, the north end might be a better choice, with the northwest wind at your back on your return to the launch site.
Gilroy, CA - Birding,Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 6
The four fingers of Drakes Estero and the double thumb of Limantour Estero form a 20-mile network of narrow bays that presses into the marshy center of Point Reyes National Seashore like a giant, deformed handprint. The only road access is at Drakes Bay Oyster Farm at the tip of the middle finger, a 3.5-mile paddle across the palm to the sea. Beyond the put in, the estero feels quiet and remote. The only access to its shores is by boat or trail, and no motorized craft are allowed. Rolling grassy hills surround the waterways. Here curious harbor seals shadow your strokes, and the estuary’s fertile mudflats attract a wide variety of birdlife. For advanced paddlers Drakes Estero provides access to miles of uninhabited ocean shoreline.
Inverness, CA - Birding,Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 1-14 miles
Although Spanish explorer Don Sebastian Vizcaino named the massive headland here “Kings Point” because the day in 1603 that he first laid eyes on it was the Feast of the Three Kings, Point Reyes lives up to its regal title any day of the year. Literally one of the more outstanding points on the California coast, Point Reyes punches a rocky right fist into the Pacific—with its thumb sticking out and down. At the far end of the beach, the chalky sandstone cliffs of Drakes Bay give way to the craggy granite knuckles of the Point Reyes Headlands, a 3-mile seawall of 400-foot cliffs that, for experienced paddlers, provides one of the most dynamic and dramatic roundings on the West Coast.
Point Reyes Station, CA - Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 1-17 miles
Winding some 7 miles from the sea into rolling coastal hills, Elkhorn Slough is California’s second-largest marine wetland after San Francisco Bay and one of only twenty-eight National Estuarine Research Reserves in the country. In addition to being one of the best places to view sea lions, seals, and sea otters from a kayak—numerous sightings are essentially guaranteed—the slough is renowned as one of the premier birding sites in the country. Its fertile mudflats and salt marshes support an incredible diversity of marine life, helping make it an essential feeding ground for birds traveling the Pacific Flyway (the major route for migratory birds along the West Coast)
Moss Landing, CA - Birding,Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 1-9 miles
From its humble beginnings in a cow pasture (some local paddlers refer to the launch site as “the muddy ditch”), Estero Americano winds 6 miles to the sea, the scenery improving constantly with each turn downstream. Within a mile of the Holsteins at the put in, the narrow channel slips between grassy, golden hills and widens into salt marsh. In addition to ducks and shorebirds, this riparian corridor is an excellent place to view raptors, including peregrine falcons, golden eagles, and a variety of hawks, soaring over the ridge tops. Near the ocean, the hills become steeper and wilder still, now cloaked in coastal scrub and traversed by deer and elk. When the estero exits a gap in the steep ocean cliffs, the vista is about as far from a cow pasture as you can get. Beyond the cliffs and sea stacks stretches the entire sweep of Bodega Bay, from Bodega Head in the north to Tomales Point in the south; on clear days you can even see Point Reyes headland, 20 miles in the distance. You can hunker out of the wind behind the low dunes at the mouth for lunch and even camp overnight, if you don’t mind sharing the view with a house high on the bluff.
Valley Ford, CA - Birding,Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 1-12 miles
From the seat of a kayak, the enormous scale of the scenery as you paddle out beneath the Golden Gate—the bridge towering nearly 700 feet overhead, the 600-foot cliffs of the Marin Headlands, and perhaps the skyscraper hull of a passing supertanker—can be mesmerizing. But you’ll need to pay full attention to the water. Twice a day all of San Francisco Bay (as well as some 80 percent of the state’s freshwater runoff from the Sacramento River, San Joaquin, and most Sierra rivers) funnels out through the barely mile-wide gap beneath the bridge; and twice each day the Pacific floods back in, creating the strongest, most challenging tidal currents in California.
Sausalito, CA - Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 1-10 miles
The most protected stretch of “open coast” on Monterey Bay, the lee of Soquel Point, better known locally as Pleasure Point, is a perfect place to gain ocean paddling experience, and it makes an excellent first coastal tour for those comfortable launching and landing through small surf or on days with no surf on the beach. In the kelp beds beyond the cliffs, sea otters and harbor seals are commonly seen, and occasionally bottlenose dolphin. Combined with a landing on the Capitola Wharf for brunch and live music on the sun deck, paddling here in the lee of Pleasure makes for a fine outing on a summer weekend. For experienced kayak surfers, the longboat surfing off several reef breaks is some of the best anywhere.
Santa Cruz, CA - Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 1-10 miles