|Photo Credit Lyrinda Snyderman|
Drakes Estero Kayak, Canoe, SUP & Kayak Fishing Information
Drake's Estero is one of California’s most pristine estuaries and home to some of the healthiest marine life in the area. The spectacular scenery and solitude of the 7,746 acre Drake Estero is experienced by kayakers from all parts of the country. It is considered the "crown jewel" in one of the most unique places to paddle on the pacific coast of Northern California.
Drakes Estero is an expansive estuary in the Point Reyes National Seashore of Marin County, located approximately 25 miles northwest of San Francisco. Launching from Johnson's (Drake's Bay) Oyster Farm you will paddle through amazing eelgrass and kelp beds, where you’ll witness exquisite panoramic vistas surrounding the protected wildlife sanctuary known as Drake's Estero. The eelgrass beds provide shelter for the countless invertebrates that form the basis of the complex food chain that makes this ecosystem so diverse.
Drakes Estero is a fabulous paddling retreat for all levels of kayakers. The estero has calm, shallow water, and is filled with enormous population of wildlife that thrives upon the lush, grassy meadows. For more advanced paddlers Drakes Estero provides access to miles of uninhabited ocean shoreline.
With relatively few humans visiting the area, you stand a good chance to catch a glimpse of the abundant wildlife, in this pristine tidal salt marsh that is home to harbor seals, bat rays, and leopard sharks. Many bird species such as osprey, white pelicans, loons, along with a variety of hawks and migrating birds, make this a bird watchers paradise for anyone interested in viewing birds up close and personal. Keep a safe distance away and respect the quiet that wilderness offers. Paddle quietly and carefully amongst the wildlife that calls the estero home to avoid disrupting the solitude and from disturbing the wildlife.
Brown and white pelicans, osprey, great and snowy egrets, and geese seasonally pass through the estero as they make the journey between breeding grounds and their winter endpoint. As one paddles throughout the estero, it becomes apparent that it is rich in agriculture, with cattle grazing the grassy hills that surround it. The hillsides that surround the waterway are also home to mule deer, coyotes, bobcat, silver fox, mountain lions, and the only free-roaming herd of Tule elk in the state of California.
Like its ebbing and flowing tides, the estuary is a constantly changing environment. This tidally influenced waterway will certainly satisfy as you explore the coastline in search of bat rays, leopard shark and harbor seals.
Launching from the beach at the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, you can paddle along the shores until you reach the estero's beach at the mouth about four miles away. You can see signs of the oyster farms extensively through two of the fingers of the Estero- Home Bay and Schooner. Keep an eye out for oyster rack wooden posts, with wires or metal attached to the racks, at each end, sticking out of the water that only show up at low tide. Follow the sticks, to avoid getting stuck in the muddy shallows. The sticks mark a channel, as you are heading south out of Schooner Bay away from the oyster farm, near the right side of the bay.
Open: Drakes Estero is closed during late spring until early fall, from March 1st to June 30th, for seal pupping, and then reopens July 1st, at which time you can explore several arms.While there isn’t any posted opening or closing time you are allowed to paddle, you are not allowed to leave your vehicle in the parking lot overnight. Drake’s Estero is closed in the spring between March 1st and June 30th to all recreational boating of any kind during seal pupping season.
Facilities: There are vault toilets near the parking lot, but not at the kayak launch site. Food, gas and lodging, are available a few miles away in Inverness. The only access to its shores is by boat or trail, and no motorized craft are allowed (except the working boats from the oyster farm).
Fees: Parking is free near Johnson's (Drakes Estero) Oyster Farm.