Flat Water Creeking

Creeking usually involves descending very steep low-volume whitewater. But there is an alternative flat-water version that will appeal if you are not hooked on adrenalin and not looking to hurl yourself down some steep ravine.
Many watersheds have quiet backwaters that are worthy of exploring and can provide an entirely different kind of thrill. The pleasure of really getting to know your own backyard; of finding wildlife in unexpected places and of removing yourself from the urban hustle and bustle.
In the Bay Area of California there are many such creeks that feed into San Francisco Bay and one of my favorites is Las Gallinas Creek in Marin County. This tidal slough system is fed by intermittent streams originating from above Santa Margarita Valley and the Terra Linda housing development and drains into San Pablo Bay. It is bordered by China Camp State Park to the south and Marin County Open Space wetlands to the north and ridge lands to the west. And despite the fact that you are just a couple of miles or so from the six lane Highway 101 and the busy Northgate Shopping Mall, floating on the creek you are in an entirely different world.
Home to California Clapper Rail and Black Rail, many species of shorebirds, wildfowl and raptors, saltmarsh harvest mouse and river otters, this special place is worthy of exploration and there is no better way to do that than by kayak or SUP. Even at low tide it is possible to launch from a purpose built public dock in McInnis Park (http://www.marincounty.org/depts/pk/divisions/parks/mcinnis-park) and another mid to high tide option is at Buck’s Launching (https://plus.google.com/113939753281778190500/about?gl=us&hl=en ).
Aside from the natural appeal of the creek there is the human element and there are quite a few interesting houses with docks, some loved and cared for and some sad and neglected and if you yearn for a waterside home, then this could be the place for you!
A great resource to find new places to paddle is the Bay Area Sea Kayaker’s Trip Planner (http://www.bask.org/trip_planner/), an online resource provided free by the Bay Area’s largest kayaking club which is also a great way to find new paddling partners.
And the perfect paddle craft for flat water creeking? It depends on your taste and how far you want to paddle but Jackson Kayak give you several great options including the Rogue, Journey, Ibis, Cruise and the SUPernatural.

Go and find a little piece of paradise in your own back yard….

Comments on “Flat Water Creeking”

  1. Butler Cox
    January 31, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    Nifty piece and great point, Sean.

    We do a lot of this and suggest also considering places where there is a mild current so one can attain a ways up without a fight, chill for a while, then really chill on the float down–combining an easy workout with vistas, bird, house, people watching, and no shuttle. Some good places include: the Snake River at Twin Falls, ID which has super canyon vistas and base jumpers to watch; the Deschutes through Bend, OR for urban scenery, and the Black Canyon of the Colorado in NV/AZ for birds, 4-legged critters of all sizes, and cliffs that don’t quit. But so many spots around the country have scenic flatwater, which may be the most accessible kayaking there is in that area. Fortunately, more and more communities are recognizing the value of restoring creeks and rivers, slow and fast.

    And the more people discover this, perhaps the more will get behind these efforts to preserve/restore/clean up these precious resources.

    We all need to be aware of landowner issues and state regs on this as often it is frowned upon to set foot on private land. A whole library full of good & bad info on this, but fortunately some creeks/rivers have been federally or state established and are paddle-craft friendly. The paddle trail movement is growing! A Google of Paddle Trails will uncover these, plus checking local shops and clubs.

    We should practice “Leave No Trace” on these waterways, and pick up litter occasionally when we find it because these are our playgrounds. The Rogue’s hatch and bow are great for that. Amazing what that boat will hold!

    Creeks that empty into harbors are fun for exploring those harbors, but knowing marine nav rules and etiquette is paramount there. Kayaks are small and hard to see…the bottom of the food chain.

    Also might want to be up on compass and map skills if the creek wanders into an estuary. Those can be the funnest places for critters, but can be mazes, too.

    Thanks for bringing up this subject! Rapids are fun, but sometimes laying back with the binoculars and a good meal aboard can be funner. And certainly easier for older or new paddlers. Not so much learning or risk involved and you don’t get to fully enjoy the Moose, Bighorn, and comical Coots in the bouncy stuff.


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