Start your morning off by getting your feet wet in the Napa River and engage with river otters, beavers and a variety of waterfowl with Napa Valley Paddle

Made possible by the 15-year old Napa Flood Control Project, this award-winning American River flood protection and restoration project is a defining feature of downtown Napa.  Prized for its “Living River” principles that value the river’s historic flood plan, natural slope, width and river flow that meanders naturally through the Napa Valley, this project is responsible for the revitalization of the City of Napa and restoration of the river’s southern marshes.  In recent years, many outdoor enthusiasts and families are rediscovering the Napa River as a recreational opportunity.  With new access points into the river, like the Main Street Dock in downtown, locals and tourists alike now have the opportunity to experience the calm, quiet and scenic setting of the river that boasts life around every turn.

The Napa River, which is an inter-tidal zone of fresh and salt water, flows from the base of Mount St. Helena through the Napa Sonoma Marshes to the Carquinez Straits on San Francisco’s San Pablo Bay. Filled with many tributaries, the river’s watershed is filled with wild life, one of the largest aviaries of migrating birds and a resurgence of fish species.  The history of the Napa River is truly amazing and one to be shared.

In 2012, Napa Valley Paddle, began celebrating the Napa River through guided and self-guided stand up paddle board (SUP) and kayak tours and rentals.  Owner Andrew Dickson, whose father spearheaded the Napa Flood Control Project, wanted to continue the legacy passed on to him by offering unique Napa River experiences to our community.  This season is no exception.  As one of the vendors now operating on the Main Street Dock, Napa Valley Paddle returns for the 2018 season with new experiences that showcase the ecological richness of the Napa River.

This season they introduce their new Napa River Eco Tour & Paddle Picnic.

Led by expert river guide, Eric McKee of Napa County’s Resource Conservation Districtpaddlers get up close and personal with the river’s wildlife and habitat.  This three-hour kayak tour provides exciting educational encounters with all parts of the natural living river environment and allows paddlers to experience the ecological history of the Napa River past and present. Spanning 5-miles into the forested northern reaches of the Napa River, participants learn about the Napa River’s ecological significance, wild life, fish and bird migrations and plant species.  The tour will also cover the Napa community’s restoration conservation efforts to protect this precious natural resource.

This tour also includes a picnic lunch.  Paddlers take a break along the river to enjoy its beauty while eating a personal platter of locally cured meats, cheese, pickles, fresh fruit and non-alcoholic beverages.  Beginner and experienced paddlers are welcome and this tour is perfect for families and small groups. ($119 per person).

Downtown Oxbow Tour

This is Napa Valley’s most popular river tour!  Celebrating one of the most unique natural features of the Napa River and one of the key elements of the Napa Flood Control Project River Bypass, the Downtown Oxbow Tour is not one to miss.  This beginner level, round trip kayak journey starts and ends in the heart of downtown Napa.

Glide along reed-lined shores and restored salt water wetlands that wind through the natural horseshoe bend in the river.  Within the Oxbow Nature Preserve, paddlers will gain access to this rare 13-acre river habitat from the water, home to native plants and trees, scrambling squirrels, turtles and a variety of waterfowl and an occasional otter as well as the river beavers who recently made a return to Napa.

Enjoy the personalized attention of a professional guide and a small group.  This tour is also available as a self-guided excursion from stand-up paddle boards.

    • Family friendly and perfect for beginner paddlers
    • $69 per person for a two-hour tour

Main Street Dock Operations

​For water enthusiasts who wish to explore the Napa River on their own, try a rental.

Located on the Napa Riverfront at the Main Street Dock in downtown Napa, hourly rentals are available for Stand-Up Paddle Board, Single, Tandem and Fishing Kayaks.  All rentals come with a complimentary paddle lesson, safety equipment and best paddle route recommendations for the tides and weather.

  • Family and Group Package Rentals Available
  • Rentals starting at $25 an hour
  • Advance paddle lessons are also available with their certified instructors
  • Reservations can be made in advance by​ calling 707.666.1628 or going to
  • Walk-on bookings are accepted at the dock during hours of operation
  • Summer Hours of Operation:  First launch at 9am, last launch at 2pm Thursday – Monday or by appointment.

Visit to also learn about their other programs including The Paddle Fit Club, Northern Reach Paddle Club and their family program.  There is also a Q&A including what to bring.


Article By: Kari Ruel