This loop provides a gorgeous water-side tour of the Bair Island Ecological Reserve. Bair Island is composed of three islands: Inner, Middle and Outer, totaling approximately 3,000 acres of former salt ponds under active restoration. Corkscrew Slough runs between Outer and Middle islands, and provides scenic opportunities to view a wide variety of bird species and harbor seals.
Paddlers should stay on Redwood Creek, Corkscrew Slough, Smith Slough, and the open water of the Bay – please do not enter smaller sloughs within Bair Island Ecological Reserve.
Total Trip – 8.75 miles
Port of Redwood City to Corkscrew Slough – 1.5 miles
Corkscrew Slough to Smith Slough – 4 miles
Smith Slough to Port of Redwood City – 4.75 miles
Winds frequently pick up here in the afternoon, particularly during summer months. Wind can make it substantially harder to return to your launch.
There are two flow restrictors (hydraulic control structures) located along the sloughs within Bair Island, as identified on the map. Water can move rapidly through these gates, particularly during lower tides, and can be hazardous to pass through. Always pass through the middle of the gates or turn-around if conditions appear too treacherous.
Redwood Creek is an active commercial shipping channel, so boaters need to be cautious to avoid the barges and other large ships that frequent the area. Propeller wash can cause dangerous, unstable conditions, even at a distance. If boaters are in the channel when ships are operating, they need to give ships the right of way and a wide berth.
Hunting is allowed seasonally within portions of Bair Island Ecological Reserve – check CDFW website for current information and regulations.
A harbor seal haul-out is located on Corkscrew Slough. It is very important to observe from a distance and to not disturb resting seals. These haul-out sites provide important resting and warming locations, particularly for seal pups, and repeated disturbance can lead to abandonment of sites. Keep your distance! If you notice a seal closely watching you or changing its behavior, you are too close.
Other sensitive species known to occur within Bair Island include Ridgway’s rail, black rail, salt marsh harvest mouse, and harbor seals. Please do not enter smaller slough channels and maintain Water Trail recommended buffer distances from wildlife.