Sonoma Land Trust opened the locked gates for MarshFest and Martha and I enjoyed Sonoma County’s only public access to the Bay. We paddled Dickson Ranch, the newly restored tidal marsh along the northern shore of San Pablo Bay, and hiked the Dickson Trail. Here is a photo from the Sonoma Land Trust website.
The event was part of a day-long celebration of the Bay and the timing was sub-optimal for paddling. Sonoma Land Trust provided bikes, nature hikes, and sit-on-top boats, but the tide was only two feet and going out. Ideally, the tide would be three feet or higher and coming in to reduce the chance of being swept out through the breaches in the Dickson Ranch dikes and into the currents of San Pablo Bay. The low, ebbing tide made paddling difficult because the kayaks barely cleared the silty bottom in many places. Those who exited after we did had a long slog through the mud, so checking the tide charts will be important in planning a visit.
This area is open to the public, but the locked gate is a distance from the put-in. On this day, the gate was open, but on a private visit, wheels will be necessary. It is paved for 99% of the way.
The put-in is at the end of Reclamation Road. To reach it from Lakeville Highway from Petaluma, just keep going straight as if you were going to drive to the Bay. That is, when you reach Hwy 37, CROSS it at the stoplight. Soon you will reach the locked gate with a parking area. The Land Trust area is open to the public but access is restricted by the locked gate. That just means you have to wheel your boat in. Sit-on-tops are ideal because the water is very calm and protected, but shallow. The mud has tremendous suction and pulled my sandals off, so consider mud boots and don’t even think of trying this in flip-flops. The Sonoma Land Trust personnel were just barefoot.
The photo below is from the little rise just past “Railroad Crossing” on the map above. You can see the locked gate in the distance, and Lakeville Highway coming to a T at Highway 37. You can see the parking area adjacent to the locked gate and you can see paved road where you will wheel your boat to the put-in shown in the map above.
Here’s the payoff you will get. This is Martha paddling toward Mt. Tamalpais. This is a very easy paddle, flat water even though it is technically San Pablo Bay, and surrounded by wetland birds and open vistas.
Dickson Ranch is actually adjacent to the original Baylands restoration project and this trail sign explains the history and some of what they learned. San Pablo Bay is at the top of the sign. We paddled the flooded-for-restoration Dickson Ranch and hiked Dickson Trail.
This is what happens when the tide gets too low.