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4 Reasons Why You Should Kayak the Napa River

Downtown Napa at Sunset

Napa Valley is a world-famous destination for wine lovers, but it also has a lot to offer for outdoor enthusiasts. Running through the valley is the Napa River, one of the largest on the Central Coast Range, extending over 50 miles from Kimball Canyon Creek at Mt. St Helena to the San Pablo Bay. This gentle waterway is perfect for paddling, offering a unique perspective of the valley. Here are 4 reasons why you should kayak the Napa River!

1. Stunning Views of Napa Valley

The Napa River winds its way through Napa Valley, including a 6-mile section that runs through the heart of downtown Napa, providing amazing views along the way. Depending on where you paddle, you can see the best of the city, the wine country’s famous vineyards, and beautiful landscapes. In the spring and early summer, the wildflowers bloom, adding a vibrant array of colors to the scenery.

2. Birdwatching and Wildlife Spotting

You can spot wildlife like birds and fish along the way, and even the occasional beaver if you’re lucky! The best spot to see wildlife is the estuary at the end of the river. The last 17 miles, from Trancas Street bridge in Napa to Vallejo, are a tidal estuary.

When San Pablo Bay is at high tide, salt water flows into the estuary, and at low tide, the water levels drop, exposing the mud flats below. You can find wading birds in this area, who hunt for food at low tide.

When kayaking in the estuary, be sure to check the tide tables for the day to avoid getting stuck in the mud!

a group of people flying kites in a large body of water

3. Ideal Weather

The Napa Valley offers pleasant weather pretty much year-round. This close to the Bay Area, winds can get cold on the water. However, the Napa River is sheltered by the valley, keeping it much warmer. Of course, it can still be tough to paddle against the wind and current, so if you’re looking for the most relaxed paddle on calm water, head to the lower section of the river, from Napa to San Pablo, for some easy flatwater paddling.

4. Eco-Friendly Fun

As you explore the beautiful Napa River by kayak, you’ll realize how important it is to preserve it. Beyond being picturesque and fun, the river is an important habitat for the local wildlife. The best thing about kayaking is that you can have a blast and get an excellent arm workout without disturbing the river and its inhabitants.

This area was once a dense riparian zone, which refers to the interface between the land and river. These zones are important because they supply food, cover, and water for wildlife and serve as stopping points for migrating species. They also help reduce the velocity of water, which can help alleviate flooding.

The forest around the Napa River’s riparian zone has dwindled, but there are government and community efforts in place to help recover it. Do your part when you visit the river by choosing eco-friendly activities that don’t disturb the ecosystem!

Ready to pick up a paddle and explore the Napa River? Check out a guided tour to learn about the area’s history or grab a Napa kayak rental to get started!