Wine Country from the water
Paddle down the Napa River-even in winter-for a relaxing, wildlife-filled view of the area.
By Peter Crooks
Youve driven up and down the Silverado Trail, stopping to taste the best the valley has to offer. Maybe youve even biked through Wine Country. But have you kayaked it?
Paddling along the Napa River isnt a white-water thrill ride for extreme sports enthusiasts but a tranquil, unique way to experience Wine Country. Some 10 miles of kayak-able river offer views of Napas natural landscape that simply cant be seen any other way.
My guide, Paul Hendricks of Napa Valley Adventure Tours, takes me to a section of the river that he calls the Amazon, a tree-shaded tributary that crosses under the Silverado Trail.
As a frog leaps from the river, Hendricks describes the abundant wildlife otters, turtles, and even the occasional sea lionthat kayakers can see in the winter months. In spring and summer, the river becomes a birdwatchers paradise, as blue herons, kingfishers, and egrets glide through the sky. Just last week, I saw a heron swoop down and snag a fish right out of the water, Hendricks says. Its amazing what youll see in the Napa River.
Hendricks, 42, is a St. Helena resident who has spent the past 20 years leading adventure trips around the American Southwest. When his son was born in 2007, he decided to keep his business close to home and opened a shop at Napas Oxbow Public Market in 2008. Its a combination of an adventure travel shop I really like in Moab, Utah, and all the kiosk businesses I have seen traveling around Thailand, says Hendricks.
Napa Valley Adventure Tours offers guided and solo kayaking trips year-round. Prices run $55$125 per day, usually including a gourmet lunch that features local organic foods. Group tours generally end with a wine tasting or a meal at one of Oxbow Public Markets many food purveyors.
Napa Valley Adventure Tours, 610 First St., No. 10, Napa, (707) 259-1833, napavalleyadventuretours.com.