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Adventure of the week: Paddling on the wild side of the Delta

River otters, muskrats, beavers, kingfishers and egrets are some of the wildlife you can expect to see while paddling a canoe through their neighborhood in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

They live in a primitive marshland that you can explore from the water under the guidance of a docent from Brannan Island State Recreation Area. The fall season is under way for these weekend tours of undeveloped marshlands near the park.

"This is the last place in the Delta still untouched by levees," said Mike Whelan, ranger for the state recreation area. "The canoe tours paddle about the undeveloped Delta meadows and see the region like it was before the white man came.

"The tours go maybe a mile or so back into the meadows, entering places that are too shallow for other boats," Whelan said. "Paddlers can expect to see great blue herons and egrets."

It's all the nicer, Whelan said, that the put-in point is at a launch ramp at the end of a dirt road.

This year, the state recreation area has returned to offering the tours twice a day - at 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. - on Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 20. Last year, the tours were limited to once a day. The park provides canoes for two, paddles and life jackets.

You don't even have to know how to paddle a canoe. The docents will teach you the basic strokes for maneuvering the boat.

The water is calm, so you can expect to stay dry while you poke about the sloughs and byways in the Delta for about three hours.

To take part, all you have to do is sign up and mail your check in advance. The cost is $20 per person, and groups are limited to 11 - the park has six canoes. The minimum age is 8.

Planning ahead matters, because these popular tours fill up early.

Delta canoe tours

When: 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 20

How long: About three hours

Where: Brannan Island State Recreation Area

Minimum age: 8

What to wear: Dress in layers

Cost: $20

Advance registration required: (916) 777-7701