Our Vision

Building Community Through Boating


It’s a lucky community that can claim a river in its backyard. From its tidal marshes to the historic urban waterfront, the river that gave our city life is also one of our most important open spaces: a linear park at the very heart of our community. Momentum is building for greater public access to the Petaluma River as people turn their attention to this extraordinary natural resource and call for better opportunities to enjoy our local waters.

Sadly, high costs and burdensome regulatory requirements have hampered the development of new facilities offering recreational access to the river, while aging docks and deteriorating marine infrastructure limit our current boating opportunities. In addition, the lack of regular dredging remains an issue affecting future river access.

A Plan foR Action and The FloatHouse

In 2011, hundreds of people attended a community meeting to discuss a set of 34 potential river-access related projects, collectively called “Petaluma Water Ways.” Among them was a proposal by the Petaluma Small Craft Center (PSCC) to create The Floathouse Small Craft Rental Center, a unique, dock-based facility in Petaluma’s Turning Basin (which has been designated as a site along the San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail). Today, The Floathouse is the only project that is shovel-ready, fully permitted, and approved.

build it and they can boat

With 170 feet of easily accessible dock, The Floathouse will provide a wonderful new launching and landing facility for people-powered watercraft, including kayaks and canoes, pedal boats, rowboats, standup paddle boards and sailboats, as well as electric boats. While a variety of boats will be available for rent, anyone may use The Floathouse docks to launch their own boat or to tie-up while exploring Petaluma’s historic waterfront shops and restaurants.

Not only will The Floathouse provide a much-needed downtown location to rent all kind of boats and easily get out on the water, it will complement the community’s recreation and education resources through classes, camps and a variety of boating promotions and events.

The Floathouse will be a “beacon of boating” and a launching point for adventure on the river. Serving the community as a center for information about the river, the staff will greet and assist local guests and visitors from out of town. Comfortable benches will accommodate those who simply want to observe the ebb and flow of river life, or wait for the next water taxi.

Located in the northwest corner of the Turning Basin, steps from Petaluma’s historic downtown, the facility will be close to parking and the nearby SMART station and regional transportation center. Nearby, at Cavanagh Landing Park, PSCC will build a new public restroom with a shower, as well as make ADA improvements to the park, ramp and gangway, providing the boating public and the entire community with much needed amenities.

The bigger picture

The Floathouse facility is the first step in realizing a broader vision that will include a Community Boathouse to be located approximately a mile and a quarter downstream. Linked to the boat rental and public access features of The Floathouse, the Community Boathouse will serve as the home for Petaluma’s boating clubs and their outrigger canoes, rowing shells, and racing kayaks, plus private boat storage too. Anchoring the river between the Turning Basin and the Marina, the two facilities will support river access for everyone, year round.

A small craft rental center in downtown Petaluma could serve as a hub for not only rentals, but also lessons and the dissemination of educational materials on boating safety, ethical paddling, and the many interesting locations to visit along the Petaluma River. As importantly, the rental center would serve those who don’t own their own boat or paddle board, or who don’t have the means to store or transpor a boat or board to a launch site.
— Ann Buell, Coastal Conservancy