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Top 10 Best Kayaking Locations in California

Campground River Kayak Campground

Campground River Kayak Campground

California is a great state for kayaking. California has over 400 lakes and nearly 1000 rivers, not to mention over 600 miles of Pacific coastline. There is lots of water to explore. Although I have not paddled all of the bodies of water in California, there are certainly very memorable ones. Here are the top 10 lakes, rivers and ocean paddles on my list:

#10 – Newport Harbor – the go-to in Southern California – no matter what the weather, this harbor is sheltered from the wind and the waves. There are 11 miles of harbor to explore and great stops for lunch or a romantic dinner on the water.

#9 – Sacramento River – Want a multi-day trip? – the Sacramento River starting in Redding is a great place to go. There are 447 miles of river to explore offering great day and overnight trips.

#8 – Lake Sabrina – If you are heading up to the Owen’s Valley this is a great place to stop. Nestled amongst 12,000 foot peaks, Lake Sabrina is over 9,000 feet with stunning scenery of waterfalls, white-capped mountains, and Pine & Aspen trees. A great place to paddle to see the fall colors (starting in September).

#7 – Owens River – For more advance paddlers, the Owens river offers a swift current to push you along. The river has lots of oxbow bends – you do more steering than straight paddling as you drift down river. Great fun for a few hours or an entire day!

#6 – Lake Tahoe – Stunning scenery with crystal clear blue water, pines, and steep cliff faces. Put in at the end of Lester Beach Road and paddle south to the iconic Emerald Bay.

#5 – La Jolla – Sharks, Sharks, Sharks! (Did I mention Sharks?) Go around sunrise and glide over the Leopard Sharks. You will start to see them in just knee deep water and deeper. Bring your snorkeling gear and swim with them after your paddle.

#4 – Merced River Yosemite – Yes, its touristy, yes it can get crowded, but it is worth the beauty of slowly paddling down the center of Yosemite Valley. Paddling next to the iconic granite slabs is a beautiful way to spend the day.

#3 – Mono Lake – Launch Navy Beach at sunrise and catch the long shadows on the tufas naturally growing out of the lake. It is a great place for bird watchers. Make sure to head off the lake by mid-morning as the wind starts to come up. Winds of 30+ mph are common in mid-day.

#2 – Lake Sonoma – One of my favorite hidden gems. Lake Sonoma is a great place for a weekend paddle. Bring your camping gear and set up camp at one of the many boat-in camp grounds. Drive in on Shady Lane/Hot Springs Rd. Paddle out Yorty Creek and up Cherry Creek. Set Camp and explore the many fingers of the lake.

#1 – Lower Colorado River – The stunning contrast of the river and wetlands against the stark brown desert just a few hundred yards beyond its banks makes the lower Colorado River an epic place to paddle. Anywhere in the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge is the place to go. E-mail us about a special campground with boat launch you’ll never forget! (Pictured Above)

Come find the wood kayak that will offer you the best adventure on your next trip.

1 Comment

  1. November 21, 2017    

    California is home to San Francisco and I’m a kayaking and paddling fan!

    Although the best places to visit are the beaches in California, many people do not realize what California has to offer them in terms of outdoor recreation via kayaking.

    National Parks, Colorado River and Sacramento are good places to look around. You’d find plenty of water bodies in those areas.

    This top ten kayak locations list is awesome, it describes the sights and scenic outdoor recreational setters would encounter on their kayaking trips.

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