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Nighttime Paddling

The Night Shift…

During the summer, it gets pretty hot in these parts and sometimes even the rivers and lakes don’t offer the necessary relief from the heat… during the day, that is. But a nighttime paddle adventure can be an amazingly cool experience, literally. 

Getting on the water in a kayak or packraft at night needs to be done safely, and is not recommended if you don’t have any real paddling experience. Navigating unfamiliar waterways with changing currents, in the dark, is a dangerous proposition. But it’s also a thrilling one. Who needs Space Mountain when you have the Sacramento River at night?

If you know what you’re doing, all you need is a good portable nightlight, great knowledge of the area you are going to be paddling in, and a life vest with a whistle. Paddling a familiar route is highly recommended, and don’t forget to let friends or family know where you’re going.

The lighting makes the area around the Sundial Bridge a great place to get your feet wet during a nighttime paddle. The colorful lights of the bridge illuminate the water quite well and the bridge is a beacon to help you keep your bearings. The coolness of the air and water, combined with the stillness of the bridge at night, make for a magical experience.

If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, paddle the Sacramento River from the Sundial Bridge to Anderson at night. Plenty of landmarks light up along the way so you can keep track of where you are, like the Cypress Bridge, the Bonnyview overpass and Interstate 5, which will be on your left until you go under it, and then exit the river at Anderson River Park. The flow of the Sacramento River will help you along nicely, and provide you with a cool breeze along the way.

If you want something a tad more majestic, Manzanita Lake at Lassen Volcanic National Park is truly a gorgeous body of water to paddle and float on at night. It doesn’t have the current that the Sacramento River has, which makes it more relaxing, and with the moon and the stars illuminating Lassen Peak and the surrounding forest, this makes for a magnificent adventure where you’ll feel millions of miles away from the hustle of the real world.  When you’re done, you can spend the rest of the night under the stars at the campground.

If you’re feeling untamed and want a multi-night paddling adventure, Trinity Lake is big enough that you can paddle from the Trinity Lake Resort and Marina on the south side of the lake, up to the KOA campground at the north side of the lake, on the first night – and then do a return trip the second night. There is plenty to explore in and around beautiful Trinity Lake and the stillness of the water combined with the nighttime sounds of the wildlife in the forest will make for a magical experience.

Story and photo by Nigel Skeet
About Nigel Skeet

Nigel is originally from England. He moved to Redding 11 years ago after living in Los Angeles for 25 years. As a creative partner with the firm U! Creative and with an extensive background in photography and marketing, he is committed to elevating the global presence of Northern California.

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