Mad River Slough, Arcata California

A self-supported trip created by Pertribe135

Trip Overview

Paddled at Mad River Slough Wildlife Area near Arcata California. Launched at the bridge on Highway 255. Large numbers of shorebirds. Some flying aerial ballets. One flock of sandpiper-like birds circled the kayak twice within 10 feet of us. Spectacuar when they all wheel in formation flashing their white undersides. Saw a feral llama walking along the top of the dike next to the slough. Chatted with some friendly oyster farmers at their processing barge out on the water.

Safety Notes

Seemed like a sketchy place to park the car, but it was right beside the highway and turned out fine.


“The Mad River in upper Northern California flows for 113 miles in a northwest direction through Trinity County and then Humboldt County, draining into the Pacific Ocean north of the town of Arcata near the Arcata-Eureka Airport in McKinleyville.

The Mad River Slough lies within Arcata Bay on the upper northern side, in the northern half of the Humboldt Bay, about 100 miles south of the Oregon border. Humboldt Bay includes Arcata Bay, to the north, divided by Highway 101. with Humboldt Bay to the south.

The Mad River Slough provides an easy put-in access and offers several miles of pristine paddling opportunities around where the Mad River was diverted into Humboldt Bay during the logging heydays. The slough still remains the way you saw the world as a young child, when the pace was a little slower, and the birds and wildlife were more abundant.

The Mad River Slough is a favorite paddling retreat among birdwatchers. There are over hundred and fifty bird species at the Mad River Slough. Red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, kestrels, harriers, kites, and osprey are all occasionally seen here. The shorebirds commonly seen are dunlin, sandpiper, dowitcher, godwit, and willet among many others. You may also see ducks, Aleutian geese, Snow geese, and Pacific Black Brant, depending on the time of year.”

Trip Details

  • Trip Dates: 10/5/2017
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking
  • Skill Level: Beginner, Intermediate
  • Water Type: Open Water/Ocean

Trip Location