The Sonoma Coast and the Russian River

Sonoma Coast (5) We wakened to a bit of fog this morning, but the rain had stopped and by 9 most of the fog was gone as well.  Once again the weather was with us.  Today we planned to kayak the Russian River, starting at Jenner on the ocean and paddling upstream with the tide until noon or so before turning with the tide and going back down to the ocean. 

The route to Jenner along Highway 118 follows the river and passes the eclectic town of Guerneville along the way.  The road is narrow and thick with trees, so dark that the street lights were still on at ten in the morning. We didn’t stop at Guerneville, in spite of the cute little shops there, the river was calling.  Once at the launch site at the Sonoma Coast State Information Center our plans came to a screeching halt.  The wind coming upriver from the ocean was cold and stiff, and I really didn’t want to spend my day cold and stiff as well. 

Sonoma Coast (41) Instead, we drove on north through Jenner, toward Fort Ross, a Russian settlement with an amazing history, and the magnificent views of the ocean along this part of Highway 1.  The skies were clear and the ocean was gorgeous.  We stopped for a hot cappuccino and a decadent muffin at the Timber Cove Lodge overlooking the bluffs.  At Salt Point State Park we walked the trails out to the surf with Abby.  Continuing north we checked out the state park campgrounds along the way.  They were completely empty, and no wonder since there are no amenities except wild ocean, and the charge is a flat 35 dollars per night.  Gerstle Cove campground was beautiful, with sites that were level enough to be manageable, but we would have to really want a view of the ocean to maneuver Highway 1 for all those miles to end up with something close to boondocking for 35 bucks.  I don’t remember State Park fees in California being this high before.  Maybe they have raised the rates to help out the bankrupt state, but if no one is in them, it isn’t going to help much.  More photos of the Sonoma Coast are linked here.

Russian River Kayak (12) When we got back to Jenner and the Russian River, the skies were still clear, and once inland at the Highway 1 bridge south, the winds seemed much calmer.  We took the old dirt road on the south side of the river leading to Willow Creek State Park, closed to camping, but with a path leading to a wide rocky beach perfect for a river launch.

By the time we got on the river it was nearly 3, but that gave us enough time to paddle upriver about 2 miles before we turned back.  The high tide was supposed to max out at 12:00 or so today, but it seems that sometimes the river mouth closes off and slows the outgoing tide. Paddling upstream was effortless, with calm still water and very little wind.  Again, we saw cormorants and several kinds of ducks, and I watched a great egret fishing intently along a gravel bar.

The reflections of the surrounding hills on the silky water were mesmerizing.  It turned out to be a perfect day of ocean and river and we got to do it all. More photos of the Russian River are linked here.

Russian River Kayak (43)

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.

3 thoughts on “The Sonoma Coast and the Russian River”

  1. What beautiful photos especially the one of the kayak with the reflections.

    Glad to see your day worked out and you got some paddling in after all. That 'decadent' muffin sounded pretty good to me too!


  2. Yes, the reflections are captiviting!

    So, where did you end up spending the night at?

    Thanks for sharing, I enjoy every single picture… can't wait to see your next post!


  3. Oh the kayak picture with the reflections is my favorite photo, too! Love the idea that it's dusty and hot on top of those rolling hills and you are where it is cool and wet! Thanks for letting me and your grandkids read all about your wonderful adventures!


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