Perfect Day on Big River

Big River kayak (14) It was a perfect day to go kayaking.  Once again there was an eight foot high tide predicted for just after noon, giving us a good two hours before to paddle upstream, and another two hours to paddle back down with the ebbing tide.  The launch site at Big River just east of the Mendocino Bay Bridge on Highway 1 is huge, with a boat ramp, but also with a broad sandy gentle beach perfect for us. 

The weather was clear and crisp, if a bit cool.  The current on the river was negligible, and with the incoming tide paddling upstream was easy.  It was Abby’s first time out in the new kayak, and it was a perfect place for Mo to adjust to paddling with Abby while she learned to settle in to the bigger cockpit.

Big River kayak (4)

On a Monday morning in November, we very nearly had the entire river to ourselves, with a single rower passing us going downstream, a lone kayaker going back downstream toward the beach, and a young couple paddling a large wooden outrigger canoe.  The rest of the trip we were completely alone in the silence of the river and the surrounding redwood forest.

Big River kayak (17)

We saw ducks, herons, cormorants, and on our way back to the mouth of the river, a group of seals. Reading about the trip in the Sea Kayaking  book suggested a nice sandy beach about 3.5 miles upriver where we could take a break and get out of the boats.  I think the combination of high river water and a very high tide completely obscured the beach, however, because we never found it. After a couple hours on the river, a bathroom break became somewhat of a necessity, so we improvised.  In an area that looked just a bit less abrupt than the rest of the banks, we tied both boats up to a small stump and managed to crawl out of them from the deep water.  Abby was glad for the break as well before we saw the tide turning and decided it was time to head back downstream. 

Big River kayak (38)

Paddling downriver at about 4mph was effortless until we were within less than a mile from the launch site where the winds picked up considerably.  I didn’t get any photos of the big wind generated waves because I was busy paddling hard, and that last half mile was the hardest of the day.  We had been warned of this, so it wasn’t unexpected and I’m glad it didn’t last any longer than it did.

Big River kayak (41) On the beach once again, we easily loaded up the boats, but by then the wind was darn cold and we were definitely ready for a break.  The tiny, incredibly picturesque town of Mendocino was just a stone’s throw from the launch, and we thought a good dose of fish and chips would be perfect. Many shops were open on this slow Monday afternoon,but open restaurants weren’t easy to find.  A shopkeeper told us about Patterson’s Pub, suggesting they had the best food in town.  She was right  The pub was perfect, with an Irish theme, small warm and cozy, great beers on tap and truly wonderful food.  I had a Bass from the tap, and Mo’s house Chardonnay was crisp and dry.  Lobster bisque drizzled with very green virgin olive oil was a perfect beginning to fresh cod and sweet potato cross cut fries.  Yum!!

Since daylight savings time ended it seems that it is way too dark at 6pm and settling in to a warm MoHo, cruising the blogs, and watching TV was a perfect way to end a great day.

More photos of our trip on the river are linked here.

Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

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