California’s state capital of Sacramento has numerous different lakes and rivers that are ready to explore.
Whether you’re new to SUPing (stand up paddle boarding) or if you have years of experience under your belt, you’ll be sure to find the perfect SUP location for all abilities.
If you’re stuck on where to paddle board in Sacramento and you’re unsure which waterway is best for you, then keep on reading!
The first location on the list is Lake Natoma on the lower American River. It’s a short distance from the Folsom Lake Dam and surrounded by scenic landscapes and vegetation.
The four-mile lake has several parking lots, and the Negro Bar Group Campground gives you the option of making it a SUP weekend adventure. If you’re looking to camp at Lake Natoma, it’s best to book your camping spot early to avoid disappointment.
The lake is a popular destination for paddle boarding and other water sports. On warmer summer weekends, you can expect the lake to be extremely busy.
Unlike other places in Sacramento, Lake Natoma has a five-mile-per-hour speed limit for motorboats giving paddle boarders perfect conditions for SUPing.
Lake Natoma has four areas to launch your board from and is a great place for paddlers of all abilities. You can also spot wildlife around the lake such as osprey, herons, and eagles.
The Sacramento River is the largest river in California at 719km. The river has a water trail system that gives paddlers of all types incredible views and an enjoyable paddling experience.
Parks and boat launches are dotted along the entire Sacramento River, making it easy to take your board in and out of the water.
As you leisurely paddle down the river, you can find scenic coves and an abundance of wildlife. Otters, beavers, bobcats, and turtles are regularly spotted and if you’re a SUP angler, the king salmon draws in visitors from across the globe.
Best witnessed from the water are the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets that take place over the Sacramento River. You should head down there early if you want to catch these incredible sights.
The Sacramento River is also host to the California River Quest race, an event that involves kayaks, stand up paddle boards, open canoes, and surf skis racing down the Sacramento River. The event takes place yearly and is a lot of fun to take part in if you’re an experienced paddler.
A remote and relaxing paddle boarding location in Sacramento is the Slab Creek Reservoir.
Lying in a deep gorge in the upper part of the American River, the reservoir is prohibited to motorized boats, leaving room for human-powered watercraft to enjoy the scenic surroundings and calm flat waters.
If you don’t like crowded waterways or you’re just in need of some R&R, then the Slab Creek Reservoir is a great SUP location in Sacramento because very few people know about it.
There is a small area where you can launch your board, and the remainder of its picturesque shores are lined with pine trees and walls of granite.
Its limited shoreline access also means that fishing from paddle boards and kayaks is very popular at the reservoir. Brown trout, Pike Minnow, and Bass are some of the fish species you will find at Slab Creek.
It is important to note that the slopes and cliff sides go straight into the water, and you can only take out your paddle board at the west end of the reservoir.
Folsom Lake, and its surrounding recreation area, have become one of the most visited parks in the California park system.
An abundance of wildlife and panoramic scenery surrounded the lake that is just slightly out of Sacramento.
The reason the lake has become so popular for water sport activities is that it has 75 miles of shoreline with secluded coves and crystal clear waters that are ready to explore.
If you’re looking for a secluded and quiet experience, then Folsom Lake may not be the one for you. Crowds are highly likely in the summer months, with many powerboats and personal watercraft out on the water.
Wildlife numbers are huge around Folsom Lake, and you can expect to see animals such as rabbits, deer, foxes, many bird species, and even black bears and mountain lions.
The water levels in the lake rise and fall, meaning that the accessibility of water ramps and swimming spots differs throughout the year, so it’s best to check these before heading down to the lake.
The American River is a popular place for canoeing, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding.
The river begins in the Sierra Nevada mountains and flows toward the San Francisco Bay. With 30 miles of water to paddle down, you’ll find water conditions suitable for all paddling abilities.
The river is split into three branches, the North Fork, the Middle Fork, and the South Fork. The South fork is the most known part of the river and the section that is easily accessible and more heavily used.
Both the North Fork and Middle Fork sections have extreme whitewater conditions that can only be tackled by kayakers.
The South Fork section of the river, however, has flat waters with some slight whitewater opportunities for the SUPing thrill-seekers.
If you’re looking for exclusively flat waters, you will want to head to the main stem or lower section of the American River. Even though the waters are calm, the river is still extremely powerful, and PFDs (personal flotation devices) should be used all year round.
Jenkinson Lake, also known as Sly Park Lake, is found in the center of the Sly Park Recreation Area on the outskirts of Sacramento, California.
The lake has become a popular and well-known spot for swimming, fishing, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding. Its crystal clear, calm waters surrounded by beaches and treelined shores make the lake an amazing spot to paddle board in the Sacramento area.
Day use areas and services are dotted around the lake, and you’ll find access to picnic tables, restrooms, and drinking water.
The beaches and boat ramps make a great launching point for paddle boards and a perfect practice ground for inexperienced paddlers.
Sly Park Recreation Area is home to over 150 bird species, and SUP anglers come here to fish for lake trout, rainbow trout, and largemouth bass.
It is also possible to turn your paddle board adventure into a weekend trip because of the parks' many campsites. If you’re heading to the lake during the summer months, it’s best to book your camping spot in advance.
If you’re visiting Sacramento or you simply don’t have a board of your own, you can find paddle board rental companies all over the city.
Here are some places to rent stand up paddle boards in Sacramento.
Some paddle board rental companies can also provide you with a paddle board lesson or classes should you need them!
You can use your own paddle board in any of the waterways in Sacramento, should it be safe enough for you to do so. Water that is more than knee-deep is acceptable for SUPing.
Common places to paddle board are rivers, lakes, ponds, and oceans. Experienced paddlers also take their boards to whitewater locations in search of a more thrilling adventure.
If you’re unsure if it is acceptable for you to paddle board on a certain body of water, it is best to do your research beforehand.
The good thing about paddle boards is that they’re easily carried and don’t need a boat ramp to be launched. With this being said, you can only launch your paddle board from anywhere that permits access.
Sacramento has many amazing waterways to discover that come with all different perks.
We’ve broken down the key takeaways for the best paddle boarding locations in Sacramento, California.
Lake Natoma has camping options, a five-mile per hour speed limit for motorboats, and amazing SUPing conditions. It does, however, get extremely busy.
Sacramento River is filled with coves, wildlife, and opportunities to fish. It is also a great place to witness the sunset and sunrise.
Slab Creek Reservoir is extremely remote, motorboats are prohibited at the reservoir, and it’s popular with SUP anglers.
Folsom Lake is just outside of Sacramento and has crystal clear waters with many coves to discover. It’s a diverse amount of wildlife species and gets incredibly busy in the summer season.
American River Parkway runs through Sacramento and has whitewater paddling as well as flatwater paddling. The river is powerful, and personal flotation devices are recommended all year round.
Jenkinson Lake has calm waters surrounded by beaches, day use areas, and campsites.
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