Over the years Catch a Canoe has assembled a world class collection of human powered paddle craft to explore 8 mile long Big River estuary. Choose from a wide variety of sit on top and decked kayaks, canoes and redwood strip outriggers.

Big River

Big River flows fifty five miles westward from the rugged Coast Range into Mendocino Bay. Due to its slight gradient, the lower eight miles are tidal, providing paddlers with good depth year round. Nestled within California's newest state park, the Big River estuary--including its abundant wildlife and adjacent lands--is now permanently protected.

“Big river looks tantalizingly moody and gorgeous, its slinky coils meandering over grassy flats and vanishing into a deep gorge defined by the dark towering presence of coastal redwoods.”

— Outside Magazine

Paddling along silently in a non-motorized craft provides a stealthy means for excellent wildlife observation. Harbor Seals and their pups are seen daily during the summer, and if you're lucky you'll observe the playful River Otters.


Polynesian technology has arrived in Mendocino!

Outrigger canoes are our specialty, and we offer many different styles. Choose from a wide range of sizes which can accommodate from 1 to 9 persons. These boats are very easy to use, and offer unprecedented stability, far exceeding that of other paddle craft. They are perfect for couples, families, children and pets!

Why Choose an Outrigger?

Using beautiful redwood strip construction, each boat is handmade by local artisan Bob Cummings of Secret Harbor Boat Works. By combining an impossibly narrow hull shape with outrigger flotation on the side, a super stable and highly efficient design is made possible. This means it takes fewer strokes to go a given distance, while enjoying a canoe which is virtually untippable. Steering and control is also made easy with an intuitive foot operated rudder system.

If you have never had the privilege of paddling an outrigger, Carpe Diem! Seize the day!


We offer very stable single kayaks from Current Designs called Solara 135's. These are well suited to the first time user. We also have a limited number longer, faster kayaks with prior experience required. Our tandem versions are the Malibu 2 XL from Ocean Kayak. Kayaks are popular right now! Perhaps the time is right to consider one of our handmade redwood outriggers, our most popular boat.

Sit on top kayaks are great for beginners and we have several models from the oldest name in the industry, Ocean Kayak. For the more experienced kayaker, we offer Current Designs Storms, and the Necky Eskia. These boats have a great cruising speed and are foot rudder equipped.

Another great design from Catch a Canoe and Secret Harbor Boat Works.

New Guided Tours

Our Solar Eco Cruise is Mendocino's amazing new adventure! Experience beautiful Big River and it's wildlife aboard our latest hybrid outrigger, Solar Wind. Sail upriver, paddle at your leisure, then return refreshed with a solar electric assist! Summer only. Our legendary Bioluminescence Tour is now accepting reservations for 2015. Your experienced guide will accompany you up big river as the sun sets to the east. On the return see phosphorescent algae all aglow underneath the surface.

Go To Guided Tours

Please Note:

Boat and Bike Rentals are Year Round

Guided Tours are June to September


Our rates are now lower than ever and more simple too. Adults are $28 each for up to 3 hours, over 3 hours add an additional $12. Children between 6 and 17 who are accompanied by an adult, are half price, ages 2-5 are free. For safety reasons, kids between 2 and 5 are only allowed in outriggers.


Reservations are offered seasonally and only for paddle craft. During fall, winter and spring, boats may be reserved beforehand. This period lasts from Labor Day through the start of Memorial Day weekend. First come first serve and NO reservations are in effect from Memorial day until the start of Labor Day weekend. Exception: Parties of 8 or more may reserve year round.

Tides and Paddling

Because Big River is tidal, paddlers can paddle both “up” and “down” river. Ideally, kayakers and canoeists paddle upstream with the incoming tide and return, downstream, with the outgoing tide.

Tides are irregular, varying from day to day in both height and time. Some high tides are higher than others, some lows are lower. It is the difference between the two which determines how fast the tide moves. The difference in height between low and high tide is called the swing. The swing on Big River varies from one half foot to nine feet, with the average swing about five feet.

Tidal Swing Chart

The cruising speed of an average canoe or kayak with average paddlers in no wind is around 2 1/2 MPH. If there is a seven foot change between tides, a paddler would appear to stand still with reference to the bank if paddling upstream during a seven foot outgoing tide. When the tidal swing is three feet or less, the speed of the flow is so slow it won't adversely affect the boat.

Please always call ahead to find out the best tidal timing for the day you'd like to paddle. This will make your trip easier!