Most of us drive through Napa in our cars, watching the landscape roll by through our windshields. Many of us don't realize that we can get out of our cars and off the road, and experience Napa in a whole new way.
It's a nature cruise. It is a history tour. And it's full of surprises. Captain Kevin Trzcinski runs two hour boat tours along a river many people have never heard of. "You'd be driving up Highway 29. You do not know that this river is right alongside you," says Kevin. He calls his expeditions Napa River Adventures. The tours cover about five miles of the 67 mile long Napa River, which stretches from Mount Saint Helena in the north to San Pablo Bay in the south. Kevin encourages his passengers to bring food and drink along to accompany his tales, which go all the way back to the Gold Rush. That's when the city of Napa really blossomed, thanks to its river.
More than a century and a half ago, people from all over the world flocked to northern California. "All those people needed to eat," Kevin explains, "and there were people that made millions of dollars – millions of dollars even back then by producing food and shipping it to them."
During the tour, Kevin points out the historic Hatt complex visible on the banks of the river. "This was the Wall Street of Napa 150 years ago." Today the Hatt complex is still a hub of activity. "There's a lot of things to do there," says Kevin. "There's a wonderful art gallery in there, Vintage Sweet Shoppe and one of my favorite places to eat at breakfast is Sweetie Pies."
The boat tour drifts through Napa’s past, its present, and even into its future. Napa is engaged in a massive project to restore wetlands within the city limits. "There's over ten thousand acres being restored in the Bay Area. A thousand acres of it is coming from the city of Napa," Kevin says. In addition to the wetland restoration, a lovely trail is being built. "The Napa River Trail will stretch all the way through town. It'll be a total of twelve and a half miles long."
The Napa River is a great place to sit back, relax, and get out among nature. It's common while on the river tour to see locals out on their own boats taking in the scenery, or casting a line into the river. According to Kevin, "We have a tremendous amount of fish in here – salmon, sturgeon, steelhead trout, catfish, carp.
There's also a tremendous variety of birds around the Napa River, some exotic and some not, everything from herons to kingfishers to domestic geese. This truly is a remarkable journey through time and space – from wilderness to urban and suburban settings, revealing secrets that have always been there, hidden in plain view. According to one satisfied passenger, "I would tell people that if they miss this, they have missed the best part of Napa."