by Corby Hines
Much can be observed from a shoreline, especially with a good set of binoculars. From the levee at Sears Point, I’ve seen long-billed curlews probing in the mudflats, harbor seals cruising the deeper channels with noses and eyes just above the surface, and even a bald eagle perched on a marsh mound. Although there’s a lot to see from the shoreline, if you want to truly experience the habitat, you need to get in the habitat. There is no better way to fully experience the tidal march at Sears Point than in a kayak.
From time immemorial, people have been plying the waters in our region with kayak-like boats. The Coast Miwok and Pomo lashed tule reeds together to make elegant boats with which they navigated local waterways. In the early 1800s, the Russians brought Aleut hunters and their sealskin kayaks to hunt sea otters along the coast. And today, kayaks are readily available in all shapes and sizes, allowing people to explore every manner of watery habitat.
Although I’ve witnessed some special moments from the shoreline at Sears Point, you can only see a fraction of what’s going on from the edge of the habitat. It wasn’t until I got in the water that I actually got a feel for the place. Moving at paddle speed seems like the natural pace to take it all in. Birds remain calm and continue feeding as you float by, much closer than they would be if you were stuck on land. It’s one thing to observe the bay’s tide surging through the levee breach while standing safely on solid ground, but to feel the power of the tide’s pull from in the water is quite another. Seals, skittish on land, are curious in the relative safety of the water, and that fleeting glimpse of a seal from shore can turn into a delightful show as the seal performs underwater acrobatics observable from your ringside seat in the belly of a boat. At nearly 1,000 acres, the marsh is a big place, and all of it is accessible by kayak.
Last May, Sonoma Land Trust turned the Sears Point wetlands over to the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The tidal marsh area, now referred to as the Dickson Unit, is open to human-powered boats from dawn to dusk every day. In addition, Sonoma Land Trust will continue to offer guided kayak outings — including two this February. To learn more about our On the Land offerings, click here. Hopefully, we’ll see you out on the water soon!
Corby Hines is Sonoma Land Trust's outings guide.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.