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Bay Area Trail adds water, attracts kayakers and SUP fans

What is the San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail program? Imagine a trail that has no beginning or end, does not follow a path, and can take you to world-class destinations. This is the San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail – a network of access sites along the shoreline that allow non-motorized small boats to explore all San Francisco Bay has to offer. You choose your route and your boat type from each Water Trail “trailhead” – and from there you can discover jaw-dropping views, amazing wildlife, and rich history – San Francisco Bay like you’ve never seen it before.

Bay wetlands, kayaker's vista
M. Holman Copyright 2012. Reprint, reposting, resale prohibited.

You may have heard of the Bay Area Trail, but here's a new wrinkle. It has a sister trail. The new Water Trail is a growing network of launch and landing sites for people in non-motorized small boats such as kayaks and canoes to enjoy the historic, scenic, cultural, and environmental richness of the San Francisco Bay. While you may not end up battling a giant fish in your kayak (see video), fishing from a kayak is also growing in popularity.

Sounds fun, but who pays for all this, you may ask. The Water Trail program was created by the California Legislature in 2011. The California Coastal Conservancy certified the Water Trail, and awarded a grant of $1,000,000 to partner with CCC staff on site-specific Water Trail implementation.

The Assn. of Bay Area Governments is also a partner because of its experience coordinating the completion of the Bay Trail along the edge of the Bay, to improve shoreline access and recreation.

The nine-county Water Trail program is intended to promote recreational water access opportunities and increase appreciation of the Bay and its unique resources. Many shoreline jurisdictions have improved waterfront access to the Bay for their communities. The Water Trail program will benefit shoreline recreation around the Bay.

An important Water Trail program milestone was the launch of the Water Trail website. In addition to providing information about Water Trail sites that have joined the trail network, the website provides information on how to plan your trip, and experience the Water Trail using safe and eco-friendly boating practices.

Waterfront site managers will determine and control the hours of operation of their launching and landing facilities. However, they will make sure users of the site can be able to later get out of the water at the same launch spot later. If the launching facilities have set hours of operation, the Water Trail Program includes those hours in the description on the Water Trail website so that people can plan ahead and arrive well informed.

The Water Trail is a program of the State Coastal Conservancy, and is led by them in partnership with Cal Boating as well. Although it is water-based, trailheads are along the shoreline of the Bay or up rivers or sloughs in some cases. The Conservancy is a major funder for both programs.