Cue the Deliverance Music.

There are many popular canoeing rivers in Northern California. The Sacramento River, from Red Bluff, 30 miles downriver in the shadows of Mount Shasta, to Woodson Bridge, is not one of them.

It was July 4th weekend so we were expecting crowds, and save for a few kayakers and boat enthusiasts, we pretty much had the river to ourselves.  We had planned a moderate backpacking trip but when one in our party had abrupt knee surgery in April, we opted to paddle to our campsite instead of forcing the kids to hike with packs a la the Bataan Death March.  The preparations were similar to a backpacking trip, but we could bring comfy pads and a cooler. I was concerned about tipping the canoe, but my friend hails from Minnesota and has done this sort of thing before.

We rented canoes at the Driftwood RV and Fishing Resort in Los Molinos, CA. The crowd at the park was definitely more of a beer drinking, horseshoe throwing, BBQ crowd, some more hardscrabble than others. The equipment we rented was in great condition and they provided life jackets (of course) and unexpected cushions and small portable seat backs, which made the trip that much more comfortable.

It must be said that the Sacramento River flows, so the canoeing is anything but arduous. We actually did a lot of floating, which was fine with me, since I was in a canoe alone with my two boys, ages 10 and 6. It was glorious, and gave us time to enjoy the scenery. We saw tons of birds: osprey, pelicans, an eagle, egrets and even though the water was chilly we often pulled ashore to frolic and sort of swim. The temperature was in the 100’s so the snow melt temperature of the water was much appreciated.

The first night we canoed back to the Driftwood, feeling a bit insecure about the whole thing and wanting to get our proverbial feet wet first. This spot is clean, well maintained and has that feel of most camp sites, like perhaps they had their heyday in the ’70s. The manager was sweet and brought us pastries in the morning and charged the kids 40 cents for cans of generic “pop.”

The second night, we decided to pull up on shore and set up camp. We were told (and did a bit of research) that the banks are pretty much public land, so we could pitch a tent anywhere we pleased. The challenge was picking a spot and not feeling like there might be a better one around the bend.

It was a perfect spot and the kids enjoyed the clay-like mud. Having been engrossed in the FIFA World Cup, they were smitten with South African names and promptly named the mud “Mbele”… literally hours of mud play ensued, what more could you ask for an outdoor adventure? No ipod, video games or TV, even if the photo looks a bit like Lord of the Flies. We cooked on backpacking stoves, enjoyed the sunset and slept surprisingly well.

You can explore the small offshoots of the river, finding a variety of small beaches and spots to investigate. We finished up our journey and the Driftwood folks met us to take our gear back to the RV Park. They hired a local to drive one of our cars to meet us — all in all a pretty seamless adventure.

Filed Under Adventure Travel, Birdwatching, Budget Travel, Camping, Canoe/Kayak, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Fishing, Northern California, Soccer, Sports


One Response to “Canoe Camping on the Sacramento River”

  1. brthomas on October 25th, 2010 3:56 pm

    Maybe the bad economy is keeping the crowds of people close to home on the weekends. The Sacramento River is definitely one of the best !! canoeing rivers of northern California.
    Rivers of California - Guides for Canoeing, Innertubing, Kayaking & Rafting.
    Driftwood Resort sounds like a great deal. I’ve added them to my list:
    Sacramento River Lower Section Directory - Recreation and Conservation.

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