Day 3: Don Edwards Wildlife Reserve to Colley Landing in East Palo Alto 10 Miles

Crossing the Bay can be really fun or really miserable depending on the conditions, but a must do if you want to be more adventurous on a SUP. Typically summer winds are N/NW so crossing from east to west can be challenging. Winter time S/SW is even harder if you're paddling from towards SW. Learn how to paddle efficiently on one side or using a SUP with a rudder is critical for open bay crossings. On this particular stretch you also have to cross Dumbarton bridge, which has two small bridges behind it. The waves can get messy there also. Click below picture to expand the map.


On this particular day of January 3rd, 2017, I had a rough day. The wind was heavy 10 to 12 knots in the morning and then it turned to 20-25 knots in the afternoon. It took me about 7 hours to paddle the 10 miles stretch. I left early breaking down camp and waded in the mud a few hundred yards before I could actually paddle. The morning paddle to Dumbarton Bridge was moderately difficult with fully loaded board, but still very manageable. The waves became big under the Dumbarton Bridge and I fell off the board trying to get on one of the pillars to take pictures, silly me. After that, even with me paddling full force at times with the gusts I was basically standing still or getting pushed back. The last mile before Cooley Landing was hellish with 20 knots and I barely made it. Wind shelter was very hard to find with the south wind, but I made by hiding behind the landing for the last few hundred yards. Sorry very few pictures as I couldn't stop paddling in the wind. Thankfully I had a little bit of help from the flood current and it was also helpful because the tide was rising and I didn't have to wade far for the take-out.

Conditions: 10-25 knots S/SW wind, high 40's/low 50's, Flood tide of 0.5 knots. 

Hazards: Besides the weather, the Dumbarton bridge and the two small bridges after that could be dangerous for novice/intermediates under bad conditions. The first small bridge after Dumbarton is a water pipe from Hetch Hetchy. The second one is totally defunct with wood pilings sticking out of the water. Some of the wood pilings have disintegrated just under the water during low tide, so it's easy to get your fin caught on the pilling. There are danger signs along the bridge, so take care. The other issue with paddling in the south bay is as always the low tide mud. Not really a problem but it could delay your trip thus putting you in an opposite tide or wind conditions, so make sure you check the wind, high/low tide and flood/ebb tide when you paddle there.

Put-in: It's extremely hard to find a good put-in point in the east bay south of Hayward. The best one I've found is where Alameda Creek meets one of the bridges but it will increase your paddle distance by several miles. I elected to camp instead.

Take-out: Cooley Landing is a beautiful place on the bay. There's an orange wooden building that's dedicated for the East Palo Alto environmental education. The orange color is a great landmark. There are two parking lots and a porti-pottie as well. Kayaks and SUPs can land on the south side of the point, there's a small trail leading to the parking lot. If you can go to the south side, scrambling up the rocks by the point is also an option but be very careful. Some of the rocks have steel rebars, it wouldn't be fun falling onto one of those. Low tide is of course a problem there as well, anything less than 3-4 feet will present you with a long push off in the mud. Alternatively you can also land in the Baylands Nature Reserve. There's a large dock, water spigot and porta potty there and plenty of parking. It's a mile from Cooley Landing and just north of Hook's Point. The Palo Alto Airport is a good landmark for that take-out. My friend Gary Leong told me that some years ago some idiot engineers from Tesla tried to take off from the airport during heavy fog and flew into the power lines along the coast. But fortunately for paddlers, we can follow the power lines during fog and be able to spot the coast.