Wildlife Observation Paddle Tours

Paddle Tour

Looking for a quiet place to paddle with friends and enjoy a docent led wildlife paddle right in your own backyard? Welcome to Stone Lakes NWR's Wildlife Observation Paddle Program!

In keeping with guidance from CDC and acting out of an abundance of caution, we are joining other community organizations in postponing tours. We know many people across the community will miss this event, but we are committed to doing our part to ensure public safety and slow the spread of COVID-19. We will continue to monitor the situation and all relevant guidance and will reschedule when it is prudent to do so.


Paddle Tour Schedule Changes for 2020

Due to recurrent summer algal blooms that have occurred in the Stone Lakes Basin over the past few years, the paddle season and schedule for 2020 will be a split season with tours in the spring and then late summer/early fall. The Refuge staff continue to collaborate with the State Water Quality Board and the FWS Natural Resource Program Center's Wildlife Health Office on monitoring any potential algal blooms and taking precautions to protect the public and Refuge resources.

The Canoe & Kayak Wildlife Observation Program offers the public guided wildlife viewing and interpretation paddles in a normally closed area.  This free program lets paddlers experience local wildlife up-close such as river otters, egrets, herons, hawks, pelicans, beavers and pond turtles while learning about the refuge, Central Valley habitat and on-going restoration projects.  The program is open to all individuals/groups and experience levels.  All paddle tours are docent guided in a normally restricted area; there is no general access for self-guided paddling on the refuge.

Paddle Tour Schedule:

** All tours are currently postponed until further notice **

Paddle Location:

Stone Lakes NWR Lower Beach Lake slough, a 3-mile historic dredged area of Lower Beach Lake; see Directions below. Tours are approximately 3 hours, so please plan accordingly to allow for the entire time. No reservation needed. Remember, be prompt for all scheduled paddle times as the group will go through a gate that gets locked! 




No reservations needed! Just show-up with your canoe or kayak on the specified date and time. Be on time as the group goes through a gate that will get locked!

What to Bring:

Bring a non-motorized canoe or kayak, paddle, and Coast Guard approved type II or III personal flotation device (PFD) for each person. All participants MUST wear PFD's regardless of swimming skills and experience. We also recommend to bring water, sunscreen, hat, snacks/lunch, insect repellent, and any other personal comfort items you may need. Boat portage is approximately 100 feet to the launching dock. The refuge does NOT provide or rent out boats; you must bring your own boat. 

What NOT to Bring:

Sorry, but alcohol, dogs/pets, fishing gear, motors, float-tubes, stand-up paddle boards (SUP), personal inflatable rafts (inflatable & pedal kayaks are ok), homemade rafts, water cannons, bbq's, music/radios and remote controlled devices must stay at home. Remember, this is a relaxed quiet wildlife viewing paddle, not a float party.

Additional Important Tidbits (please read):

Although the slough is lined with trees, there will be little shade as you paddle, so please be prepared for being exposed to the sun and heat. The slough itself is pretty much a stagnate waterway with very little movement, but afternoon winds can pickup and make paddling a little more strenuous. This is a great opportunity for viewing wildlife; you are welcome to bring binoculars and a camera, but remember we will be on the water and you and your gear may get wet. This is a slower paced, relaxed paddle for viewing wildlife, so if you feel a need for speed please visit a local reservoir. You will be parking and unloading close to the floating dock where we will launch; you will only need to portage your boat approximately <100 feet, and there is the opportunity to either land launch or dock launch. This is an undeveloped site with no running water, although a non-flush restroom will be available. Remember, the wildlife is sharing the slough with us, so please respect their home; 'taking a dunk' and swimming is strictly prohibited.


From Sacramento, take Interstate 5 south to Elk Grove Blvd exit.  At the end of the exit ramp, turn right (west) looking towards the grasslands.  The exit dead ends in 300 feet at a large red and white striped gate that has a sign that says "North Stone Lake Unit". The tour guide will meet you right there and have everyone drive back to another location to unload their boats.  Remember, be prompt for all scheduled paddle times as the group will go through a gate that gets locked!  

Note: All scheduled trips meet at the refuge Elk Grove Blvd gate directly off west side of Interstate 5.  Paddle tours do NOT meet at Blue Heron Trails or the office headquarters! Arrive at least 10 minutes early. Please allow yourself the entire allotted time for the trip duration with the group. All tours are approximately 3 hours unless otherwise noted, so please plan accordingly to stay the entire time. All paddle tours are docent guided in a normally restricted area; there is no general access for self-guided paddling on the refuge.