San Francisco Bay      

San Francisco Bay Kayaking california
Photo Credit Lyrinda Snyderman

San Francisco Bay Kayak, Canoe, SUP & Kayak Fishing Information

Area Map #63     Miles of Shoreline: N/A     Bay Surface Acres: N/A     Elevation: 925’
Address: 201 University Avenue Berkeley, CA 94710     Ph: 510 981-6740  

Paddle Notes: Imagine paddling by a silvery moon as the skylines of San Francisco twinkles around you. Such a kayaking outing is one of the most memorable paddles you’ll ever experience. Or you can paddle up the gentle waters of the Oakland Estuary toward the marshes of San Leandro Bay, where you are treated to views of  harbor seals, herons  and a host of shorebirds.

San Francisco Bay KayakingPhoto Credit Lyrinda Snyderman  

With the gateway to the coast on one side and California's wine country on the other, San Francisco Bay is an extraordinary kayaking destination. The bay offers year-round kayaking and fishing opportunities, but the bay is most popular in the summer. The quiet spring, fall, and winter seasons offer a slower pace to satisfy paddlers who yearn for a more peaceful atmosphere.

San Francisco Bay is a part of the San Francisco Bay estuary system, which includes San Pablo Bay and Suisun Bay, the Carquinez Strait, the tidal marshes surrounding these waters, and river tributaries.

The San Francisco Bay estuary consists of 480 square miles and 12 islands. There are two separate areas: the northern, which passes south and westward from the Delta through Suisun and San Pablo Bays, and the southern (also called the South Bay) which extends southeastward toward San Jose. These two areas join in the Central Bay near the Golden Gate Bridge and flow out to the Pacific Ocean.

Northern, western and southern traffic sea lanes converge halfway inside the gulf toward San Francisco on the San Francisco precautionary area 11 miles off shore. From this point, the main channel flows shoreward through four sets of buoys to the Golden Gate. The channel divides the immense horseshoe shallows surrounding the gate into the wide South Bar and the northern Four Fathom Bank, atop which rests the Potatopatch Shoal. Navigating in this area requires the utmost caution, as the seas will often vary with the weather, tides, and seasons, and may become impassible for kayakers

Kayak Fishing: Halibut fishing in central San Francisco Bay is improving on the slower tides. Rockfish and sturgeon are also taken here. Fish the outgoing tide for halibut around Red Rock, and hit the rocks for reds and blues and lings in the afternoon. San Francico Bay Kayak Fishing California

Photo Credit Lyrinda Snyderman  

Wind & Weather Conditions: The bay offers a number of challenging of weather conditions strong winds, fog, and rough seas. Late summer and early fall months generally provide the best kayaking conditions; however, fog is most common between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island during the summer. If low fog is predicted, carefully consider your trip.

Winds from the northwest prevail during the summer. Winds usually increase in the afternoon, often resulting in conditions hazardous to kayakers. The wind tends to subside after sunset.

Winter weather varies considerably from summer weather. Winds  blow onshore from the west or southwest. Storms usually follow southeasterly winds. Seas can build rapidly from approaching storms.

The water is cold, and prolonged exposure can be fatal if you capsize.. The wise kayaker will always check the weather conditions before getting under way.

The entire bay is relatively shallow, with narrow, deep channels near the Golden Gate and Carquinez Strait which tend to be maintained by tidal currents. These tidal currents are swift and should be treated with respect. Under spring or storm tidal conditions, the current can be dangerous to kayakers.

The gulf can provide a magnificent cruise to the Farallon Islands and adjacent grounds during mild weather. More often, the passage is turbulent and, for many recreational boaters, the first taste of the open sea. The Islands make up the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge and landings are not permitted.

San Francisco Bay KayakingPhoto Credit Lyrinda Snyderman  

Water conditions around the Golden Gate and the Golden Gate Bridge may present several problems for boaters. Tidal currents and wind velocities are increased in the confined area between Alcatraz Island and the bridge.

The shallow San Francisco Bay Bar surrounds the outside entrance of the bridge in the shape of a horseshoe. Very dangerous conditions develop over the bar where large swells, generated by storms far out in the Pacific Ocean, reach the coast. A natural condition, called "shoaling," causes the large swells to increase in height when they move over the shallow water shoals. This “piling up” of the water over the shoals is worsened when the tidal current is flowing out (ebbing) of the Golden Gate. The outbound tidal current is strongest between the time of high tide and the next low tide. The incoming large swells are met by the outbound tidal current, causing very rough and dangerous conditions over the bar.

The most dangerous part of the San Francisco Bay Bar is considered to be the shallow northwest portion, better known as the Potatopatch. The Bonita Channel, between the shoal and the Marin coast, can also become very dangerous during large swell conditions. The safest part of the bar is the main ship channel through the center of the bar; but even that area can be extremely dangerous when the tidal current is ebbing. It may be safer to remain at sea or in the bay until tide and/or wind conditions change and calmer seas occur. This is a very difficult crossing to make in bad weather or predominantly strong ebb tide conditions. Steep waves 20 to 25 feet high have been reported over the bar. Conditions over the bar may change considerably in a relatively
short period of time.  Weather  and water conditions information courtesy of  California Department of Boating and Waterways.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
High 58 61 62 65 65 68 68 69 71 70 64 59
Low 46 49 49 50 51 53 54 56 56 55 51 47

Terrain: If San Francisco’s dynamic waterfront is what you want to experience, City Kayak at South Beach Harbor is your launch point. A scenic tour past McCovey Cove and the San Francisco Giants’ ballpark, the soaring towers of the Bay Bridge and the historic Ferry Building will be your reward. While paddling the majestic bay, you can take in the spectacular views of San Francisco, Mt. Tamalpais, Mt. Diablo, and the East Bay areas. 

Open: Kayaking is allowed twenty-four hours a day with running lights at night, year-round, seven days a week.San Francisco Bay Kayak Fishing

Photo Credit Lyrinda Snyderman  

Fees: Free and pay parking lots.

Bay Facilities: The Berkeley Marina facilities consist of restaurants offering a splendid variety of dining facilities. A launch ramp and a marine fueling facility is located on the north shore. On the south are a free 3000’ public fishing pier. No license is required. Modern bathrooms at the boat launch. Vault toilets are located at the southern launch. San Francisco Bay launch Accesses

Bay Directions to Berkeley Marina: Coming south on I-80, take the University Avenue off-ramp, and then a left onto University toward the bay. At the Y, veer right onto Marina Boulevard and follow it around for the main boat ramp. For the Berkeley Yacht Club launch, keep going on University to the T-intersection near the Berkeley pier. Turn right and follow it to the end parking lot. For the southern boat basin launch, continue on University for 50 yards or so past Marina Boulevard. Map

San Francisco Bay Kayaking



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