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Paddling The Petaluma River

Paddling the Petaluma River

By:  Jeff Kellogg -

Here at Clavey we’re open every day except on Wednesdays. That’s our day to paddle!
It’s pretty cool to be able to hit our favorite paddling spots and not have to worry about crowds,
because everyone else is working!

Most mid-week breaks finds us paddling at different areas, usually within 30 minutes of driving time from our store in Petaluma. Over this last Fall and Winter we’ve been able to paddle on Tomales Bay, Walker Creek, Drakes Estero, and the Estero Americano. These outings also provide us the opportunity to paddle the boats that we sell and offer in our demo program such as Necky, Eddyline and Delta.

With such great paddling within a close distance, it’s easy to forget that the Petaluma River is right here in our own backyard! So a few weeks back, Ryan and I were looking at tide charts and observed that this particular Wednesday had an ideal high tide in the morning at the turning basin in downtown Petaluma, with a strong ebb covering a few hours before slack.

Tide log the day of our paddle.

Tide log the day of our paddle.

This meant that if we timed it right, we’d have a nice current carrying us out towards the mouth of the river where it meets the San Pablo Bay. We decided to make it a one-way paddle and left a shuttle vehicle (with a small cooler filled with cold beverages) at the Black Point boat launch in Novato.

Upper Drawbridge leaving the Turning Basin at high tide.

Upper Drawbridge leaving the Turning Basin at high tide.

Just beyond Shollenberger Park.

Just beyond Shollenberger Park.

We stuck to the main channel, where it’s very easy to stay on course. However, once underway we knew there were very few spots to get out of our boats, so we planned accordingly. We made pit stops at the Petaluma Marina, and at Gilardis Marina where we also had a quick bite to eat from our packed lunch. It sure would be awesome to have a tavern of sorts here…A burger and a beer would be a welcome boost for the final leg of this paddle! Long gone is the fun Greek restaurant that use to be at Gilardis, but there is some building activity at the site and rumors that a new restaurant may open.

Approaching the new smart train bridge.

Approaching the new smart train bridge.

Gilardi's Marina.

Gilardi’s Marina.

At this point in our paddle we noticed the river current, generated by the outgoing tide, was really evident as it passes under the docks. This is an area where we to took some precautions not have our kayaks get swept under a dock. Then a mile or so down the river from here, it opened up where we saw glimpses of the Highway 37 bridge. The take out point is on the right just after the bridge. Again we were aware of potentially strong currents around the bridge pilings and near the boat ramp especially since we were landing during a strong outgoing tide.

The Rockin H Ranch below Gilardi's Marina.

The Rockin H Ranch below Gilardi’s Marina.

Highway 37 Bridge

Highway 37 Bridge

Black Point Boat Launch - Take out.

Black Point Boat Launch – Take out.

The Petaluma River is a tidal estuary and is approximately 13 miles long. It passes through a wetland marsh that supports a complex web of life. And paddling downstream away from downtown the color of the river, the mudbanks, and the surrounding hills becomes a subliminal carpet of greens. A variety of birds can be seen: Great blue heron, night heron, egrets, killdeer, canadian geese, and numerous birds of prey. Feel free to drop by the store (except on Wednesdays) and we can show YOU some different route options for enjoying the river!

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Jeff Kellogg is a Co-Owner of Clavey Paddlesports

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