Sunday, February 28, 2016

Early splashdown kicks off kayak waterfall tours

Finding waterfalls at Englebright? As easy as one, two, three 

Snow melt turns on the faucets for area lakes and rivers....

Dry times aren’t over, not by a long shot. But there are trickles of hope for paddlers in Northern California’s lakes and rivers, thanks to early runoff from the Sierra. And that sets the scene for waterfall tours by kayak, even before the spring equinox arrives.

Our paddler pod enjoyed just such an outing last Saturday at Englebright Lake in the Yuba River gorge near Marysville. A ten-mile round-trip jaunt revealed several
picturesque waterfalls amid steep, lush hillsides dotted with trees that seemed determined to stand at 45-degree angles, consistent with the green slopes.
Not the biggest falls, but beautiful nonetheless
Only a few roaring powerboats interrupted the quietude on a mild, overcast day – a definite plus since, like many reservoirs in the Sierra foothills, Englebright will surely be awash with angler and skiers during the summer season.

But on Saturday, we could claim most of the lake as our own for a few hours. And the almost deafening quiet – other than the stroke of paddle blades and some lively conversation – helped us detect splashing water even before we could even see the falls. Most were on the small side, but beautiful and tranquilizing nonetheless. As a bonus, the first spring wildflowers also began peeking from rocky hillsides.
Spring bloom starts early

Hopefully, El NiƱo will look upon us favorably for another month or three. Englebright and other spots around Northern California are quite magical during better, wetter times.

And paddling during spring drizzles can be especially enjoyable when paddlers prepare for them. The right clothing and gear can keep you reasonably dry even when wet turns wild. (Check this brief video taken on Tomales Bay in late January.)

But on a serious note, this caution: Weather is at its most unpredictable this time of year, and the water cold. As we returned to the dock at Englebright, we passed a group of kayakers headed into the lake. None of them had PFDs. They wore light, cotton clothing and paddled boats of a type that fill instantly with water if capsized and are nearly impossible to right or bail.

Only 24 hours earlier, two canoeists drowned in Donner Lake while paddling in rough conditions. This is a beautiful time of year to go paddling, but it also can become deadly for the unwary and unprepared.


For more info on Lake Englebright, check this NorCal Yak post from 2011, which includes additional links with helpful tips. Also check other posts for waterfall and wildflower tours and other spring paddles on Lake Berryessa and the North Fork of the American River -- assuming the water continues to rise. 

© Glenn Brank, 2016