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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

5 Fun Ways to Explore the River

El Niño, Atmospheric Rivers, Pineapple Express – residents of Napa County are emerging from a wet winter. What better way to celebrate the return of sunny days than heading outdoors to enjoy the Napa River?

One of the defining natural features of Napa Valley, the Napa River winds through forested mountain slopes, vineyards, urban areas, open pasture, grasslands, industrial zones, and marshes on its 50-mile journey from Mt. St. Helena to the San Pablo Bay.

From river trails to outrigger canoes, the opportunities to explore the beauty of the Napa River are accessible to people of all ages and every level of fitness. River Walks Organizations like Napa County Resources Conservation District and Friends of the Napa River work tirelessly to maintain and improve the health of the Napa River and the plants, fish, and wildlife that depend on it. Join RCD for WILD Napa Walk and Talk: A Walking Tour of the Napa River. Meet at the City of Napa Library on May 8 at 6 p.m. for a free, family-friendly guided walk. Local experts will share the history and ecology of the Napa River over the course of a 2 to 3-mile easy walk.

The city of Napa is home to several paved trails well-suited for walking, biking, and running along the river. Enjoy a Saturday morning walk to the Napa Farmers Market with river views. Park downtown and stroll along the River Trail from Third Street to Gasser Drive. Additional paved walking paths run through the Oxbow Preserve, Trancas Crossing Park, and the Wetlands Edge Trail in American Canyon.

Boat Launches

There are plenty of diverse options for those who would prefer to hop off the walking trails and onto the river itself. The City of Napa is currently home to five public boating access options along the Napa River. The Main Street Boat Dock and Kennedy Park Boat Launch provide public access for both non-motorized and motorized crafts. Jim Hench Memorial Kayak Launch, Riverside Park Boat Launch, and Trancas Crossing Boat Launch provide additional access to the river for all non-motorized crafts.

Kayak Rentals and Tours

Both Napa Valley Paddle and Enjoy Napa Valley offer kayak rentals and guided kayak tours. Everyone from paddling novices to expert kayakers ages 7 and up are welcome.

Spend an afternoon spotting wildlife with Napa Valley Paddle’s Downtown Oxbow Tour. Keep your eyes open to catch a glimpse of river otters, beavers, turtles, and egrets along the way.

Or, join Justin Perkins, owner of Enjoy Napa Valley, local history buff, and expert storyteller, on a Napa Kayak History Tour. Did you know Elvis once performed and stayed in Napa? You’ll learn about Napa’s provocative past on this two-hour tour of the Napa River. Visit and for more information about rentals and tours.

Try a Canoe Club

Give outrigger canoeing a try with Ohana Wa’a. Napa’s outrigger canoeing club opens its practices to keikis (kids 8-17) and adults on Mondays and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. No previous experience is necessary, though competitive paddlers are also welcome to join. Ohana Wa’a provides all equipment and works with people of all skill levels. Curious paddlers may try a few practices before deciding if they’d like to join the Ohana Wa’a outrigger community. Practices launch from the Napa Valley Yacht Club and RSVPs are required. Email for more information.

Bird Watching and Fishing Charters

To see an entirely different side of the Napa River, book a river and wetlands tour with Wombat Charters. Captain Aussie Bob hosts daytime and sunset cruises for groups of 2 to 6. Set aside at least four hours to explore the southern wetlands of the Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area on one of Wombat Charter’s skiffs – a craft ideal for navigating these shallow, narrow wetlands.

These tours are a treat for wildlife photographers, nature enthusiasts and bird watchers. Guests can expect unobstructed views of Mt. Diablo, Mt. Tampalpais, and the Mayacamas Mountains. Wildlife abounds in the tranquility of these sparsely traveled wetlands. Great white egrets, great blue herons, red-winged blackbirds, and red-tailed hawks are often spotted during Captain Aussie Bob’s cruises. If guests are lucky, they’ll catch a glimpse of great horned owls or an American pelican too.

The Napa River and surrounding wetlands are an ideal location for striped bass and sturgeon fishing. Book a fishing excursion with Wombat Charters where rod, reels, tackle, and expert guidance are provided. A California fishing license is required for anyone 16 and older.

Visit to reserve your charter.


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