CA paddle places

I will be in the East and North Bay areas of SF and would like to paddle while there-most of April. Am considering the Russian River, looks nice and outfitters are available (not bringing a hull). Need to know if the Russian is OK and where some other hot spots might be. Any feedback is appreciated.

what kind of water do you like?

Lee has a good question
Lee has a good question - what type of paddling do you like? I am assuming you are looking for flat water, not white water?

Lower Russian River is mostly a summer playground - not sure if the rental places are that active in spring. It is flat water, though sometimes can be tidal if the sand bar at the mouth washes out (as can happen if we have strong rain).

Spring is known for winds for us. Lower Russian River is aimed straight at the ocean, where the winds come from. Recommended you do a paddle there early to avoid winds.

Other options:

Sea Trek, Sausalito - paddle amongst the house boats and into Richardson Bay, or perhaps over to Angel Island

California Canoe and Kayak, Oakland - can paddle past the big container ships

City Kayak, San Francisco - Can paddle along the waterfront.

Worth a trip:

Tomales Bay to the north. Blue Waters Sea Kayaking rents there. An hour drive from Bay Area, yet you are away from everything.

Elkhorn Slough to the South (a river the enters Monterey Bay - lots of wildlife, including sea otters, seals, birds, etc). Monterey Bay Kayaks ( and Kayak Connection ( rent there.

is it still possible to paddle
from Johnsons Oyster farm ? That was one of my favorite trips. Not as scenic as Tomales Bay or S.F. bay but the necessity to keep track of the tides and destination at the ocean was great,the shallow water allowed one to see individual sea life up close. Paddling back at low tide below the level of the mud flats is kind of hysterical,except for the last 100’ ft.

We waited for the tide to paddle up the river and high wind was not in the weather report but an onshore breeze came up. We made it to the Bridge when the wind started howling. We decided to call it off and turned around. It took us over an hour to make it back to the put in against the tide and wind. The winds peaked at 45 mph later that day and lasted all day. In retrospect, I am glad we turned around when we did but I probably should have pulled off and walked back to the truck.

not right now
Johnson’s Oyster Farm is one of the access points to Drake’s Esterro. Drake’s is closed from March 1 to June 30 each year for seal pupping, so this area wouldn’t be open during the time of the OP’s trip.

Mendocino Coast
The Mendocino Coast is 3 to 3 1/2 hours north of the bay area. If you want flat water there are 3 river estuaries that are beautiful with redwoods, lots of wildlife, and outfitters. The coast offers open coast paddling as well as sea caves and rock gardens galore.

Email or call us if you want more information.


To answer Pete,
I’m a flat water and river runner paddler from the NE. Prefer canoes but if I have to, I’ll slip into a kayak. Not well versed in anything above C-III and never in the ocean but game. The furthest north from SF I’ll be would be the outer reaches of Sonoma Co.; maybe a tick more. How are water levels there?

I Was At Elkhorn Slough This Weekend
I met my son for spring break at Santa Cruz.

He only comes down once a year, so he really doesn’t have gear for open ocean trip, so I took him on Elkhorn Slough.

He really did ejoy all the wildlife.

We saw dozens of Sea Otters, Seals, and Sea Lions.

not much help
I am a long boater…

Here is a site I found that has some details on the Russian River:

I would also check into Cache Creek, which is also in the area. Here’s an outfitter you can call and ask for details on - (note - never used them - just found through Google).