Get the most from your time on the water:  Tides, tide patterns & river contours


THE OXBOW:  Downtown Napa is where fresh & saltwater meet, literally.  Fresh water from the Napa Valley and salt water from San Pablo Bay come together in Downtown to create a huge meander, shaped similar to the 'harness around neck of an ox'.  This bend was carved out over time from tidal flows and freshwater flows clashing and then shifting horizontally to find a path of least resistance.


The oxbow is one of the most critical habitat zones of the Napa River; a marquee feature that occurs on rivers all over the world!

RIVER CONTOURS:  Tides on the Napa River are pretty relaxed thanks to the Living River Restoration project which reintroduced the natural river contours and riparian growth above Kennedy Park, all the way to Trancas Crossing Park, approx. 5 miles.   The river was re-connected to the flood plain here and as a result paddlers benefit from slower moving water along the inside of the turns (take this line when paddling against the tide) or faster moving water along the outside or toward the center of the river, where the water is deep.

TIP 1:  Think of the river as a racetrack (with top speed of say ... 4mph).  The deep channel can be found wherever the water flows naturally.  The water moves very slowly if at all, in the shallows (on the inside of the turns) and faster in the deeper water.  Do not get discouraged.  Tidal waters on this river are gentle, you can always find slow moving water and make good time above Kennedy Park!

TIDE PATTERN: the best way to remember the dynamic here is "every other week".   For about 7 days paddlers enjoy a morning high tide.  The following week paddlers will enjoy an incoming tide all day long.  This pattern 'every other week' continues throughout the year and for eternity!  So on, and so forth. 

TIP 2:  THE TIDES MOVES UP APROXIMATELY 45 MINUTES PER DAY.  Example:  If high tide is at 11am on Friday, it will be roughly 1145am on Saturday and 1230pm on Sunday.  

TIP 3:  THE TIDE LAGS APRROXIMATELY 1 HOUR.  The movement of the water continues for about an hour after high (or low) tide.  Example:  If high tide is 12pm the water will continue to move-in (incoming) until approximately 1pm!  So, what we are saying is the tide charts are wrong.  NOTE: The LAG increases or decreases based on the size of the tidal event that day.   Full Moons bring the largest tide and thus a longer lag time.

We've been operating on the Napa River for ten years - born and raised here in the Napa Valley - and happy to advise you regarding tide, launch location and route based on tidal flows.  Feel free to give a call or give us a wave on the Main Street Dock when you paddle by!  707.200.5511 

 Best Regards and Happy Paddling! 

Drew Dickson   NVP