Overview: Paddle to the heart of the South Bay’s largest island.
Distance: 4 nautical miles
Paddling time: 3-4 hours (depending on conditions)
Season: All year
Getting there: From Hwy 101 exit the Woodside Road/Seaport Blvd exit. Follow Seaport Blvd north. Turn left onto Chesapeake Dr. and follow it until it dead-ends at the Redwood City public boat ramp.
Parking lot address: 601 Chesapeake Dr, Redwood City, CA 94063
Bair Island spans over 3,000 acres in the southern portion of the San Francisco Bay. It’s a complex mosaic of twisted tidal channels, mudflats and salt marsh vegetation. It’s also a hotspot for birds and marine wildlife and, thanks to POST, it’s all yours to explore.
For a quick trip to see the island, there’s a short walking path to a lovely lookout platform on the western portion of the island. You can find information on that trail here. But if you’re up for it, we suggest this escape deep into the heart of the island via kayak.
If you don’t have your own boat, we recommend giving the folks at Outback Adventures a ring. They’re a terrific local outfitting company, well priced and offer guided tours of Bair Island. There’s more to kayaking than you might think, and having someone guide you through this trip might be nice, especially if your new to the sport.
For those of you with boats (or friends with boats) keep reading! We’ve got some tips below you’ll want to check out.
Before you go, we recommend you check the tide charts, especially if you’re new to paddling or don’t want to fight the current. The current moves slowest when the tide reaches its highest or lowest point. Look for those times on the chart and plan accordingly. A quick peek at the tide chart could save you a lot of energy when paddling.
After setting off from the public boat launch, follow the shoreline on your left toward the old pier before crossing the channel to the island’s shore. After crossing the channel, turn to the east and follow the shoreline up the island’s coast. The water can be quite shallow to the north of the red channel markers, but in a kayak, you should be able to go wherever you like.
Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, especially as you come around the corner into the Corkscrew Slough (the tidal channel that bisects the island). In the spring, harbor seals use these protected waters to rear their pups. But they can be seen there all year, hauling themselves out of the water to warm themselves in the sun. Please respect their space and give them plenty of room.
You can paddle as far into the Corkscrew Slough as you like. Keep in mind that as the tide begins to change, the current moves through these channels pretty quickly. For an easy out and back paddle, we like to turn around just after the entrance of the main slough (see map below).
There is a lot to see and explore, so bring binoculars and take your time! Enjoy and happy paddling!
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 80,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more