San Pablo Dam is a great place to paddle if you have 2 or 3 hours and want some exercise. The water is calm, the wildlife abundant, and the powerboats neutered. For paddlers living in or visiting the East Bay, it's only minutes away. And because you will be paddling in fresh water, kayak clean-up is fast and easy.
Nestled in the hills East of Berkeley, the dam is open to the public 9 months of the year from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. They charge $5.50 per car and $6.00 per boat.
Upon entering the facility, we avoid the cement boat launch ramp and park at the extreme left side of the parking lot. From there it's about 20 feet to an easy, sandy put-in. No muss, no fuss, and NO SCRATCHES!
We usually circumnavigate the dam counter clockwise. After launch turn right and paddle past the boat launch. You will soon enter a part of the dam reserved for human powered boats. There is a colony of rare white pelicans here. Also many snowy egrets, great herons, night herons, osprey, turns, ducks, too many Canadian geese, and I'd swear I saw an eagle last week. At the far end, all boats are forbidden from entering the white pelican breeding grounds.
Circumnavigating the entire dam takes 2-3 hours depending on strength and wind. When you enter the powerboat areas (5 mph speed limit on most of the dam) wildlife tends to diminish.
Boat launch, picnic areas.
$5.50 per car, $6.00 per boat
Exit Highway 24 at San Pablo Dam Road. Proceed North passed Orinda. Look for sign on right.