By Erik Vance
There are lots of ways to enjoy the Bay and enjoy your watershed. You can hop on a sailboat, take a swim, or just walk along a shoreline and squish your toes in the sand.
But perhaps none is as intimate and revealing as a trip in a kayak. Sitting right next to the water not only gives you a workout, but it puts you in the perfect place to see the Bay. Since your boat makes almost no noise, the wildlife takes little notice of you. Kayakers regularly spot seals, sea lions, skates, and even porpoises in the Bay these days.
Since the days of the native Ohlone people and their giant tule canoes, paddling has been an intrinsic part of the San Francisco Bay. And while more than 95% of the wetlands from those days have been diked and drained, there are still plenty of places to get out and enjoy this amazing resource. The Bay is rimmed with wetlands like Bair Island in Redwood City, Oakland’s Arrowhead Marsh, Brooks Island in Richmond, and Petaluma Marsh, the biggest saltwater marsh on the West Coast.
The easiest place to rent a boat is from one of the many outfitters along the Bay, like California Canoe and Kayak in downtown Oakland. On hot summer days, people can be seen from all walks of life, stopping by the shop and renting a boat to get out on the water. Experienced paddlers, however, know that the best time to be on the water is the winter. That’s the time when the water is calmest and the morning light plays marvelous tricks over the Bay. It’s also the time when the most birds can be seen after their long trip down from Alaska.
It’s in celebration of this tradition that The Watershed Project is introducing a new aspect to our Coastal Cleanup Day festivities: The Flotsam Flotilla. This motley crew of kayakers and canoes will be made up of paddlers from around the Bay whose job it will be to not only clean the shoreline, but also pick up the trash floating just out of reach of pedestrians. The group will move up and down the Richmond Shoreline just like the people on land. The difference, however, will be that the paddlers will be picking trash off the breakwaters and inside the sloughs, rather than along the sides. But don’t worry, they will be plenty of trash for all so come on down. And if by chance you own a kayak or canoe…well, join the flotilla!
Photo credits: Tuolumne River Trust, Outback Adventures, California Canoe and Kayak.