Best Waterways in California
Trying to find the best waterways in California? Bivy has great hiking, biking, paddling, climbing, skiing, riding and more, with hand-curated trail maps, as well as detailed driving directions.
California, El Dorado County
01 :58 hrs
On the southern end of Lake Tahoe Eagle Creek tumbles from above and descends into a narrow bay, Emerald Bay. In summer the Emerald Bay area is swarming with visitors as they all follow a path outlining the bay and hugging its shores to Rubicon Point. Beat the crowd by paddling instead. Just be cautious of high winds mid mornings until early afternoon. The first half of this paddle trip is exposed and you may find yourself fighting waves. Stay close to shore where you are less exposed to motorized boats and wind, just be weary of rocks.
00 :54 hrs
Explore sea caves, bird-filled cliffs, and paddle through the kelp forests while sea lions come to check you out.
02 :03 hrs
For an easy and fun water adventure in the Las Vegas area, consider the Boulder Island kayaking route. Leaving from the Hemenway Harbor, you’ll paddle to the very nearby Big Boulder, Little Boulder, and Rock Islands and explore their ever-changing coastlines (due to rising and falling reservoir water levels). Waves on Lake Mead can be a bit bigger than on smaller water bodies, upping the difficulty of cross-lake travel, but this is still a good adventure for novices.
California, Santa Cruz Island County
00 :56 hrs
Santa Cruz Island is the largest of the five Channel Islands and likely the most rugged. Its comprised of steep jagged cliffs, deep valleys, and high peaks. This paddle trip explores the vibrant tidal pools teeming with sea creatures and several volcanic sea caves located on the northeast side of the island. What's nice about this trip is the high volcanic cliffs surrounding the bay provide moderate protected from strong northwesterly winds and waves. Contact Island Packers or Truth Aquatics for boat transportation.
02 :21 hrs
11 miles off the coast of California is a remote virtually untouched island with steep rocky cliffs that plunge into the ocean below, this is Anacapa Island. From the loading dock, this trip paddles through crystal clear waters and follows the cliffs along the northern side of the island while passing several sea caves and unique geological formations along the way. The section between roughly 3.7 and 4.5 miles is protected and closed to boats between January 1st and October 31 due to pelican rookery. Be cautious and aware of submerged rocks and shallow reefs in the channels. There is one cove suitable for a landing and another where landing is impossible but offers significant protection from the elements, mile 3.5 and mile 5.5. Loading kayaks from the dock can be a little tricky and requires help. A hoist must be used to lower kayaks 10 to 12 feet from the dock to the water. Contact Island Packers or Truth Aquatics for boat transportation.
02 :05 hrs
If you’re looking for a water adventure but don’t feel up to the rigors of Lake Mead, this course in Lake Las Vegas is for you. Public access to the lake is found at a parking lot on the east side of the lake. Other access points can be found but may be limited by private ownership of launch spots. This is a popular spot, so be on the lookout for other boats, particularly larger and faster moving craft.
00 :12 hrs
Surrounding Wingfield Park, the Truckee River Whitewater Park features 11 pools for kayak play, a kayak racing course, and annually hosts the Reno River Festival, a competitive kayaking event. The park is located in downtown Reno in walking distance from 24 resorts, so if you’re staying in Reno, passing through, or a local, access is quite easy. Rapids are rated at Class II to III.
California, Placer County
01 :21 hrs
Ralston Afterbay Reservoir, also known as Oxbox Reservoir, lies at the base of a canyon and where the Rubicon River and the Middle Fork of the American River converge. The reservoir is surrounded by narrow steep sided canyon walls blanketed in a thick forest of conifers. There are day use/picnic areas located at the boat launch area as well as on the island by the dam. The day use area by the boat launch will have restroom facilities and grills in addition to picnic tables. When the water level drops, currents develop making it more challenging to navigate, however, swimming areas emerge. This generally occurs during mid summer months. Also, it is not uncommon for the reservoir to be completely drained by late summer.
California, Lassen County
02 :16 hrs
South of Butte Lake exists the remnants of an ancient volcano, Cinder Cone. When Cinder Cone was active, it created fields of lava beds which now dominate the southern shores of Butte Lake. The rest of the lake is outlined by tall pines. This paddle trip allows you to explore the geological history of the area up close. As you're paddling along you'll find picturesque views of Cinder Cone, Prospect Peak, and Lassen Peak, and if there during the spring or early summer, it will still be dusted with snow. The southern end of the lake is more shallow, be cautious of rocks just below the surface and out of sight.
California, El Dorado County
02 :12 hrs
These elongated deep blue alpine lakes are tucked away between the mountains of Desolation Wilderness in Lake Tahoe. The lakes are surrounded by glacially carved granite cliffs and tall lodgepole pines, needless to say the scenery is beautiful. Here are some things to keep in mind: The channel between Upper and Lower Echo Lake may require portaging during periods when water level is low, generally by September. Strong southwesterly winds develop in the afternoons. Also, Lower Echo Lake is populated with motorized boats and water skiers.
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