Photo Credit Lyrinda Snyderman
Paddle the Petaluma
If you’re looking for a pleasant paddle with lots of wildlife and birdwatching, paddle the Petaluma. The paddling possibilities on the Petaluma River are never-ending. Whether you paddle by kayak or canoe, the Petaluma River, in Northern California is a remarkable getaway.
The Petaluma River is a tidal slough that empties into San Pablo Bay. The lower 12 miles of the Petaluma River flow through the Petaluma Marsh, is the largest remaining salt marsh in San Pablo Bay. The marsh covers 5,000 acres and is surrounded by approximately 7,000 acres of reclaimed wetlands. The marsh provides an important wildlife habitat and fish hatchery.
In the North Bay, a mosaic of waterways provides paddlers access to a world where there's little if any boat traffic; where the water is often mirror smooth and bird sightings await you around every bend. Paddling south into Petaluma Marsh connects you to the Napa-Sonoma Marsh Wildlife Area and 50,000 acres of tidal wetlands that are habitat for birds and wildlife.
As you wind your way through an urban setting, you’ll paddle into a wilderness area. This wildlife area is comprised of several units totaling approximately 4,200 acres of tidal salt marsh, mudflats, coastal oak woodlands, and coastal scrub habitats. Migratory bird species use the area most heavily during the fall and winter months, but many can be found year round. Egrets, herons and coots sightings are the most common along with many species of ducks, along with curlew and ibis. If you keep an eye out, you'll also catch a glimpse of barn owls, red-tailed hawks and prairie falcons. The wildlife sightings can rouse nearly anybody. The area also supports deer, raccoons, jackrabbits, and foxes.
Located in southern Sonoma County (and a portion of northeastern Marin County), the Petaluma River Watershed drains 146 square miles that becomes a tidal slough near its mouth. The flow is generally southward through Petaluma’s old town, where the waterway becomes navigable, and then flows another 10 miles through tidal marshes before emptying into the northwest corner of San Pablo Bay. The Petaluma River stretches along farmlands, marshes, and industrial landscape. The watershed is approximately 19 miles long and 13 miles wide with the City of Petaluma near its center. After a leisurely paddle, kayakers can tie up at the Petaluma Turning Basin to grab a bite to eat.
Because of Petaluma's mild climate, having fun on the Petaluma River isn't limited to the summer months. In the spring an explosion of wildflowers covers the rolling hills. The Rivertown Revival, a festival featuring an art boat race, and the Holiday Lighted Boat Parade are one of the top things to do in the area during your Sonoma County getaway.