|Photo Credit Jim Snyder|
Kayaking the Serene Waters of Mokelumne River
Paddling a flat water river is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, and is typically more peaceful than whitewater kayaking. It enables the paddler to take in the scenic views and wildlife in its natural habitat. The Mokelumne River run from the Fish Hatchery to Stillman L. Magee Park is a flat water paddler’s paradise on hot summer days, with its cool, refreshing water, and scenery so beautiful that it’s hard to remember you are only thirty minutes from Stockton.
Flat water kayaking down the Mokelumne River is one of the most relaxing things you can do. You ease into a soothing, rhythmic motion as you paddle through ripples and eddies. As the river winds its way along picturesque foothills and canyons, you can catch a glimpse of a variety of birds, such as great white herons, geese, ducks, and turkey vultures. The area is also home to an abundance of wildlife, so it should come as no surprise to see raccoons, opossums, beavers, deer, river otters and skunks.
The waterways of the Mokelumne River can easily be navigated by a novice kayaker, but are still challenging enough for paddlers who seek more of an adventure. The river offers both flat and white water paddling, with faster water during spring runoff. Early in the season the river can be quite fast and high, but later in the year, you can scrape on rocks in a few places. During low water level, there are some shallow spots with sand bars.
The four mile section of river from the Fish Hatchery to Stillman Mcgee Park has Class I moving water most of the way, but no rapids other than an occasional little riffle. However, keep in mind the river can become more turbulent after a heavy rain. High spring waters on the river can also create water hazards.
Whenever you paddle a river, always check the cfs (cubic feet per second) flow. Cfs is the measurement by which water flow is determined, and is important to know when paddling on moving water.
Always be on the lookout when paddling a river to avoid unseen obstacles that can snag your kayak just below the water visibility line. You can get hung up in fallen trees with a root structure or branches under the water, which may cause you to capsize. Visible or submerged rocks just beneath the water’s surface present an array of challenges that may also be a hazard for inflatable kayaks.
The Mokelumne River is 95 miles long and flows west from central Sierra Nevada into Central Valley in Northern California, where it empties into the San Joaquin River. Below the Camanche Dam, the Mokelumne River continues southwest, past Lockeford and then turns northwest at Lodi, where the small Woodbridge Dam impounds the river, forming Lodi Lake.
The stretch of the Mokelumne between the Fish Hatchery just below Camanche Dam to Stillman Mcgee Park is suitable for sit on tops and recreational kayaks, and paddlers who are able to maneuver in a current around rocks, downed trees and branches along the shore.