Multi-day Canoe Trip - California

My friends and I have been spoiled to be able to do 5+ day canoe trips back east where we rarely see anyone else and enjoy the seclusion.

Now I live in northern California and I am looking for a similar multi day canoe experience, but am coming up short. I have done some research, but the trips I have found are either short, popular, or run into class III+ rapids, so I thought I would reach out and see if anyone has any ideas.


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CA is different than East Coast
Very different here than the East Coast. Our rivers are steep in the mountains, so often higher class than you want. Then flat and surrounded by towns and farms in the central valley.

There are some shorter paddles available. For a river trip, best I could think of is Sacramento River from around Redding down to as far as you want (Chico is 100 miles, Sacramento looks to be about 150).

For lakes, Pyramid Lake in Nevada not far from Reno looks like it could be good (never been there myself). Mono Lake would also be interesting for a few days.

Not far from Bear Valley is Spicer, Utica, and Union reservoirs. Maybe you could put something together with those? half of Spicer is in wilderness, so the motorboats can;t go there. The other two are close to each other, so you could possibly tie them in with a portage. They are reservoirs, so not sure what the water levels will be like this year.

To avoid crowds, do any paddle off season (outside of the Memorial Day yo Labor Day time frame).

Or you could ditch the canoes and get sea kayaks and do the Channel Islands, Lost Coast, Big Sur, etc.

Sacto River
This river is highly under rated for canoe tripping. I have been on overnight trips at least 8 times. The Redding to Red Bluff run has a few rapids, but mostly just a lot of current and riffles. The river swings far to the east away from the roads. There is some farmland around but the riparian zone along river is full of wildlife especially birds like eagles, blue herons, osprey and kingfishers.

Camp on islands or the beach if the land is public. It is easy to make 15-20 miles a day. The water is cold all year because it comes out of Shasta Dam. Avoid the summer months because the heat. I like the fall best when the king salmon are spawning. Spring is good but lots of insects.

For a first trip I would suggest below Red Bluff. There is a lot of hazards from people breaking into cars along the upper Sacramento R, Leave your vehicles somewhere where they can be watched. Pay if you have to. Redding is the worst. Leave no valuables in your vehicle.

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Far as I can tell
northern California is not canoe country. People are into rafts and kayaks. I tried to plan a canoe trip out there once and I gave up. Nothing really wild that I could find. Pyramid lake is outside of Reno Nevada and it is the termination of the Truckee river that originates at Lake Tahoe. It is a cool area and there is a lot of paddling but Pyramid lake itself is in the middle of a pretty empty desert and while I’m told the fishing can be good it doesn’t look like a place for a multi day trip to me. Nice for sort of an off the wall day trip. You might turn your eye to Oregon and Washington State and see what you can find.

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runs thru country. Take a look. Find advice on Big AG farm chemicals…an nooo insects. Not like the…

Ditto on safety.

The Feather, Klamath…the upper Eel and Lower Eel beckon but only short sections.

Lower Colorado Blythe to Imperial Dam

Take a look at Oregon and Washington where water runs bank to bank inperpetuity

have you
been over to the fabled Russian ? The Saco of The West ?

excuse my
verbosity. I track Cal’s water problems. Data strongly suggest’s buying the 2-3 Wa and OR tour guides from B&N

Last poster asking abt Cal water wanted to bury a buddy on the Feather…

We all looked the situation over finding that Yes you could dump your buddy into the Feather but then he wouldn’t float far or dispurse.

CA rivers
Try the Feather, Trinity, lower Klamath, Russian in the off-season, Eel, and the E Fork of the Carson Rivers.

Pyramid Lake is a very interesting place in the spring and fall. The fishing can be spectacular.

Mono Lake is too salty and devoid of vegetation. Lots of insects especially in May and June.

ahjumawi state park is boat in only.

In Oregon head to the Warner Wetlands just across the state line.

Klamath NWR has a canoe trail.

Lassen Park Butte Lake is all wilderness. Paddle to the south end of the lake and set up a base camp. Hike the trails and see the geology sights. A couple mile portage to Snag Lake (no carts).

Shasta and Trinity lakes, when they have water in them (maybe not this year). Paddle up one of the arms

ditto on Sac River
The Redding to Red Bluff stretch is undeveloped. Mostly BLM land and and semi wild. You may encounter some power craft, but not many. BLM has a boat-in campground about halfway. You have to portage around the dam at Red Bluff. No problem, it is all paved with boat ramps above and below the dam, and a grassy Forest Service campground with showers. Below Red Bluff it gets real flat – an easy level 1 float. A boat-in campground at Woodson Bridge state park (within walking distance of a small store/cafe). There are a couple of Wildlife Refuges along the riverbanks. The regs are little vague on whether you camp on the banks or a sandbar in the Refuges.

Leave your vehicle at one of the many RV parks/fishing resorts along the river. For a small fee they will often shuttle you upstream to the launch point. Be a sport and pay for a night at the RV Park at the end. They all have showers and a laundromat, so you can clean up before driving home.

Lake shasta
A few years ago we paddled up the McCloud River Arm to a nice boat in campground. The fishing was good, but the lake is rough from boat traffic and not one person reduced their wake when they saw our loaded canoes. On the third day a giant houseboat of college kids showed up from U of Oregon. There were as obnoxious as any group I have ever seen. We could not leave because the shoreline was really steep and there was nowhere to go ashore. We left the next day and found my truck had been broken into. No more Shasta trips for me.

The Stanislaus River
As part of the development of New Melones reservoir, the Army Corps developed a series of paddle in only campgrounds on the Stanislaus River. You can put in at Knight’s Ferry and paddle down river for 4 days if you want. There are 3 Army Corps campsites and then Caswell State Park outside of Ripon. You need advance reservations but it’s a really interesting way to go and very light usage. Especially interesting in the fall when the Salmon are running. We used to run it with Boy Scouts.

Thanks for the suggestions on this post! I couldn’t find a good river in the area (though a friend suggested I try the John Day River in Oregon next time) so I went with a lake instead.

I went out to Pyramid Lake with my pup and had a great time. Rented a Kayak from Tahoe Sports Hub (great place) and did a 2 night trip. Camped one night at the lake, then loaded up the kayak and paddled further north. Spent the night there. Paddled back to the car day 3.

FYI, the latest restrictions on the lake are that you have to camp south of Warrior point (west side about half way up the lake) and north of the RV park. Pretty limited area considering the massive lake. I would have really like to have camped on the north end next to the giant rock formations (Needle Rocks). Also might have been cool to checkout the east side. That said, I didn’t see any reservation police, so you might be able to get away with camping elsewhere. Monument Rock on the North West side is a cool spot.

You can pick up a camping permit from the Bar next to the RV park. $15 a night.

In short, this was an awesome lake. Occasional fisherman on a boat, and some folks in RV’s but it’s easy to find total isolation. Wind was a factor. Made it rather choppy and it was slow work against the tide. Especially on a loaded up kayak.

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