Petaluma Marsh Wildlife Area

A dozen Petaluma paddlers in eleven boats left from the Lakeville Marina this morning to paddle through the sloughs that wend their way to the Cabins in the Petaluma Marsh Wildlife Area.

Green Cabin 1:10:16

Bill, Brigitte, Dan, Diana, Don, Geoff, Holly, Joe, Kris, Mike, Ray, and Sue (in alpha order) paddled together today.

Our group left the docks a little before 9:30 AM, about three and a half hours before the 1:00 7.2′ high tide predicted for the day. As we got going, Ray predicted, correctly, that we’d have plenty of water under our boats to navigate the sloughs. After about an hour’s paddling we arrived at the cabins.

These cabins have a storied past. Their most glorious days are behind them now. Many of yesteryear’s cabins have fallen into mouldering disrepair. Only a handful remain.

We were observant of the “NO TRESPASSING” signs prominently posted all over the Marshmellow cabin (yes, that’s how it’s spelled on the sign), the one kept in best repair. We paddled to a berm west of the cabins and beached our boats. A cold breeze made us all don our warmest clothes.

Boats Beached on the Berm 1:10:16

A short walk along the berm took us to the SMART train track right of way.

SMART train rails, looking south

SMART train right of way, looking south

Rails Up Close

Close up of modern rails. Note the cement railroad ties and plastic clips that fasten the rails to the ties.

Standing on the railroad tracks we enjoyed views further west to a marshland dairy and wetlands with flock of birds: widgeons, mute swans, coots, buffleheads and golden eyes. The swans were farther away than they look in this photo.

Swans on the Marsh 1:10:16

The dairy would be a good place to be a cow, I think, with excellent views of the Petaluma Marsh.

Dairy on the Marsh

Tractor on the Marsh 1:10:16

After enjoying the views, we found a spot in the lee of the berm to get out of the chilly wind and spread out our picnic cloth. As always, lunch was an enjoyable potluck with plenty of good food and conviviality.

From our lunch spot looking west the sky was filled with dark gray clouds.

Looking east, by contrast, the sky was blue with fluffy white clouds. If you look closely at this view of Marshmellow cabin you can see evidence of  Northbay kayakers meet up group who were out on the Petaluma Marsh today as well. There were six Northbay kayakers. I think they had lunch at the cabins.

Northbay Kayakers on the Cabins 1:10:16

We took a different route to get back to Lakeville Marina, passing Neil’s Island’s southern shore. Picturesque trees grow on it.

Paddling Home 1:10:16

Regrouping at Neil’s Island

A tree on Neil’s Island.

Tree on Island 1:10:16

Note the hawk perched on the highest branch.

We got back to Lakeville Marina after about paddling for about an hour. The one-lane bridge we passed beneath on our way out this morning was now so close to our heads that we had to duck.

Low Bridge 1:10:16

Another fine day’s paddling with the Petaluma Paddling group.

6 thoughts on “Petaluma Marsh Wildlife Area

  1. Dan, what a great place to go paddling and a great place to have a cabin by the water – does it completely dry out at low tide?

    I am intrigued by the different bow profiles of all the kayaks in a row. I see some have rudders and some don’t. I know that in the UK the purists don’t use stern rudders – do you know what the consensus is in the US?

  2. There are quite a few abandoned cabins from fisherfolk and duck hunters along the Hudson River estuaries, too. Sounds like a great adventure.

  3. Hi, Alden,

    Those cabins are accessible when the tide is above halfway between high and low tides. They’re pretty much abandoned now; back in the day there were many more cabins out there.

    As to my opinions about kayaks with and without rudders: here in the US I would say there is no consensus at all. Each type of boat has its defenders.

    I have four kayaks: one with rudder, one without rudder or skeg, and two with retractable skegs. I like them all. If I kept but one kayak, it would be my rudderless/skegless boat because I like its elegance, simplicity, beauty and reliability. A well-designed kayak can be safe and enjoyable with no need of a rudder, but the paddler needs to know how to edge the boat to steer it effectively in challenging conditions.

    I also like my two kayaks with skegs. I can trim he skegs so the boat holds course in strong side winds and/or currents . Many boats weathercock when paddling in winds from the side. Deploying the skeg stops that so you can paddle straight ahead.

    My rudder kayak is for sailing. I’ve got a Kayaksailor rig for that boat. The rudder really helps whilst sailing.

  4. It was a fun day. The duck hunters were out on Sunday, I could not see them, but I did hear the blasts of their guns.

  5. Nice high tide paddle but wouldn’t be caught dead in that manure-infested water . . . it’s always shocked me that we allow cattle to graze right into water ways like the Petaluma river and the Estero Americano. And I’m surprised they didn’t come up with a more long lasting design for the clips on the tracks . . . plastic in any environment is likely to be trouble but near the river is very concerning.

    Nice shots of the day . . .

  6. Beachmama, you make a good point. The night before this paddle I talked to a doctor friend who basically said the same as you… that it’s risky to paddle in the Petaluma River and Estero Americano because of the water pollution, not only from cattle, but from other sources as well. The doctor gained some acclaim for saving the life of one of his patients who picked up a flesh-eating staph infection from either the Petaluma or Russian Rivers (he had been in contact with both just prior to his illness).

    I don’t know the science behind concerns about the safety of being in contact with those waters. People swim in the RR all along its course, even in the lower sections that I like to paddle in. I notice that birds, otters, rabbits, etc. live in those waters (and presumably drink from them, too) so there’s that.

    I personally won’t on purpose swim in those waters. I take measures to minimize my contact with the water, wearing rubber boots and spray skirt to keep my skin reasonably away from the water. And I shower when I get home.

    About the plastic clips, I don’t get them either. I’ll see what I can find out.

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