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Fall/Winter 2009

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

You’ve driven up and down the Silverado Trail, stopping to taste the best the valley has to offer. Maybe you’ve even biked through Wine Country. But have you kayaked it?
Paddling along the Napa River isn’t 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 Napa’s natural landscape that simply can’t 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 lion—that kayakers can see in the winter months. In spring and summer, the river becomes a birdwatcher’s 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. “It’s amazing what you’ll 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 Napa’s Oxbow Public Market in 2008. “It’s 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 Market’s many food purveyors.
Napa Valley Adventure Tours, 610 First St., No. 10, Napa, (707) 259-1833,

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