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Explore the Napa River: International Culture & Wild Nature

Napa Valley Paddle, born in 2012, has grown from a small paddleboard startup to a full-scale adventure company, promoting ecological stewardship and sustainable tourism along the revitalized Napa River, enhancing both community life and natural conservation.

Drew Dickson Reads This Article

The best memories have always involved outdoor adventure. It's in my blood. Napa Valley Paddle emerged in 2012 to bring adventure to our wine club members and help them nurture their curiosity about nature and each other. We began with a boat trailer and 8 paddleboards, riding the tide from Kennedy Park to Trancas Crossing Park, where our wine club members would step off their boards for a Beaujolais & oyster BBQ on the river bank under a walnut tree. Several customers remarked, “It was the best day of their summer,” and one got married the following winter. Eventually, I became inspired by the fertility and life in this estuary, which became my life’s work: to protect it by helping people fall in love.

The restored Napa River, The Napa, now offers a magical experience, blending international culture with wild nature. 

On our planet today, access to nature is a luxury. We sold the river for many years, and our customers were the only ones on it. Today, we are a full-fledged adventure company operating from three locations on the Napa River, spanning both wetlands, downtown, and the forested northern reach. Two years ago, we added Tomales Bay and Drake’s Estero in Point Reyes National Seashore, where we host nighttime, bioluminescence tours and full-day journeys to the Pacific Ocean via Drake’s Estero.

Why the Napa River matters more to tourism than we think

Our broader role in business is to communicate the impact of the $400 million investment from the Napa community towards the health of the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The restored Napa River is one of nature's incubators and is vital to the health of San Francisco Bay. This significance is also reflected in the quality of a Napa Valley wine on the dinner table. It's a hopeful story of the resilience of nature, and like our fine wines, we hope it is shared at dinner tables across the country and worldwide.

The Napa is the most under-utilized recreational resource in the Napa Valley.

And as the Paris Olympics approach, we will be reminded that a great city is marked by a healthy river running through it!

Fresh and saltwater converge here in Downtown Napa, and the seam where rolling champagne vineyards blend into wetlands is wild again. 

Beyond the obvious ecological benefits, such as providing a spawning ground for native salmon and steelhead, riparian growth to filter runoff, and shade for animals, rivers are great for the imagination, offering a sense of adventure and connectedness to something larger than us. Like Atlas Peak and Mt. St Helena, the Napa River is a defining feature, particularly for the City of Napa. The land within its meandering horseshoe bend, the Oxbow, where Chinatown and Little Italy once coexisted, is transforming into the Rodeo Drive of Napa along First Street.

The Napa has changed the orientation of Downtown Napa. It has ushered both a cultural renaissance and the resurgence of nature through the town and outlying boundary waters. But the image of water is critical for this new digital age, complete with a sadly well-defined wildfire season. Today, water sells like sex sells. 

Is the Napa River the secret source to family-friendly Napa Valley?

Undoubtedly, the best family kayak route in the Bay Area is our Kennedy Park Lazy River paddle. You'll ride the river from Kennedy Park to Downtown Napa, guided by our signature southwest breeze blowing up from San Pablo Bay. All family tour packages include The Napa Mobile Podcast, illuminating your journey with insights into the local culture, history, and ecology while providing navigational assistance. Additionally, a 2.5-mile, 7-minute shuttle back to your car is included.

“Come to Jesus!” Give the people what they want. The main attractions in Napa Valley are obviously good food,  great wine, and romance. We've been offering our Water to Wine tour for lovers and families alike for 13 years now, and no doubt exploring the Oxbow District by water provides a welcome break from the typical tasting room experience. It's a great way to start the day and explore your curiosity in nature and your partner. We might even lower a champagne bucket to you by rope for special occasions as you pass under the First Street Bridge.

This article is brought to you by Cuvée. Cuvée is a Napa Valley Winery Guide built by a team of locals who are passionate about discovering new brands and unique experiences.

Drew Dickson

Andrew Dickson is the Owner of Napa Valley Paddle. He is a lifelong water enthusiast, fly fisherman, winemaker, and second-generation Napa resident.

Napa, CA