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The Petaluma River: From the Source to the Sea

So technically the Petaluma isn’t really a river, it’s a tidal slough. And being a slough, it can’t really have a source, per se, so we actually started at the Petaluma Marina. Also, it doesn’t really flow to the sea, it flows into San Pablo Bay which, in turn, becomes San Francisco bay which, of course, eventually opens up into the Pacific Ocean. So while we maybe didn’t really paddle all the way to the sea, we did actually paddle all the way to the Black Point Marina which does actually sit at the mouth of the Petaluma River at San Pablo Bay. Probably ten to twelve miles all said and done.

Our trip began the way so many of our trips begin – with me driving back home to the house to get my bag of gear I left in the garage. So our plan to put on the water at 9am slowly became our reality of putting on around noon. Luckily the tide was on a solid ebb and the wind was at our back, but still we were on the water for almost three hours of fairly leisurely paddling downstream. The tide when we put on was probably between 3 and 4 feet so while we didn’t get the great view of getting on the water at a 6+ high tide, we didn’t get the mud flats view of the low tide either.

If you’re not into half marathon paddles, you can either, stop at Papas Taverna and take out, or start at Papas and continue. In our kayaks, which were definitely “touring” boats, the first leg of the journey took an hour and the remainder, from Papas to the mouth, close to two. You can, of course, make a round trip of any of the river but chances are, at some point, you’ll be fight the wind or the current.

Tom and Jeff took our two carbon kayaks from Necky, the Chatham 17 and the Looksha IV respectively. I took the Eddyline Fathom. All three boats, being plenty fast (and all three paddlers, being plenty lazy), we kept up with each other just fine. That being said, allow yourself more time if you’re in a more recreational or sit-on-top kayak.

If you’re looking for a fun, easy river with lots of birding that allows you to take advantage of some natural cheats (like wind and tide), we can highly recommend the Petaluma.

For more info on the Petaluma River, checkout: www.friendsofthepetalumariver.org

As a side note, the three kayaks we used on our journey, the Carbon Chatham 17, the Carbon Looksha IV & the Eddyline Fathom are all now for sale at “wow” prices.

-Scotto Galbreath

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