Search for Salmon near Samuel P. Tylor State Park
We were so spoiled for so long with the good weather. I know we need it, but we love to get outdoors and the rain always makes the outings more thoughtful. This week we decided head out as see if we can spot some spawning salmon, stay sheltered in the canyons and explore Kent Dam area.
This time of year the parking area at Shafter Bridge (a.k.a green bridge) is open for parking through February. This makes visiting the area safer, because you don't need to park out on busy Sir Francis Drake road where hiking along and crossing are a bit dangerous, especially for your kids. The reason the parking area is open is for the viewing of the Adult coho salmon. Each winter when the creeks swells the salmon head up to spawn, which usually peaks in December. Going to see the coho salmon is always a hit or miss kind of outing, so it is good to have a backup plan to keep the interest. A couple of weeks back the Lagunitas Elementary school kids came and saw quite a few so we were hopeful. However, we struck out, but with the rains finally here hopefully there will be enough rain to swell the creek a bit and cause a another run to come up.
The West side of the creek (the side with the parking area) is the best for looking for salmon. The road is closer to the water. There is signage at the parking area providing tips for spotting salmon. In addition to the salmon we like to see if we can spot the human made logjams in the creeks that were built to create pools and habitat for the Salmon. Some have visible steel cables anchoring the logs, while other are more simple piles of logs.
After exploring the creek for salmon we headed up the road to view the lake. This is a bit of a tricky route, because the road splits, most quickly dead end. You need to keep in mind where you are going and be ready for an adventure. Just be sure not to head up to Bolinas Ridge. Because the lake is low it is possible to head up the west side of the creek and spillway, up to the dam and cross in front of the spillway on a seasonal dirt road and then go back down the east side of the creek making the outing into a 2 1/2 mile loop hike. We really enjoy kent dam area. It is not a pristine looking area like the always full Lake Lagunitas. This is where we get our drinking water and the area is very functional with valves, pipes and stuff all over the place. Our kids love it! Just keep a close eye on them. After you cross the spillway the road splits and the lower route heads back down the east side of the spillway. At the base of the dam is a small concrete structure where a metered amount of water is let out of the lake to keep the creek flowing through the dry months. Kinda fun to take a peak in at the swirling bubbly water.
When you are done exploring the area head down the creek back to Shafter Bridge, cross the creek and you are back to the car. If 2.5 miles is not enough distance or climbing, then you can add an extra climb up the ridge to a small peak and then back down to Shafter Bridge. The Climb is about 800 extra feet in elevation and 4 more miles. The area is mostly fir forest and has a pacific northwest feel with large moss covered Douglas Fir trees and a lush under story. The route is a bit tricky. You cross the dam and stay along the shore briefly and then head up a dirt road (Peters Dam Fire Road). The road forks, go up to the left. Near the top the road is washed out and after passing by road turns into a trail. Stay on the main path until you come to a well traveled dirt road (San Geronimo Ridge Fire Road) go left and down back to the creek.
Be sure to stay clear of the Spillway and the surrounding area where there are steep cliffs and loose rocks. Also, please respect the salmon spewing area and don't take your dog down to the water even on a leash.
Directions and Details can be found in the book Hiking Marin: 141 Great Hikes in Marin County