Many people at the launch area at the Estero Americano tell me they’ve never paddled all the way to the ocean. That is understandable. It’s five and a half miles to the beach and that first mile is nothing special.
Most of the journey to Bodega Bay, however, is a lovely paddle.
With that in mind, permit me to show you just how grest it is.
Let’s start with a map showing the names of the landmarks along the way. Click to enlarge.
The public launch is at the intersection of Marsh Road and Valley Ford Estero Road in northwest Marin County.
A gravel driveway, often rough with potholes, runs along the south side of the road out to the narrow Estero channel. Parking is limited, but not many people come here. Leave room for others to park.
From this site, paddle north under the bridge and begin winding up the channel. You’re likely to pass dairy cattle who often show interest in paddlers passing by.
The dairy buildings on the Marin side have a pleasing geometric appeal. They mark the beginning of the wilder reaches of the Estero. You have come about a mile at this point. It gets better from here.
Wild animals begin to appear beyond this dairy. On the most recent trip, Willets worked the Marin shoreline.
A luxuriant grove of Bay Laurel trees overhang the Estero. It’s a pleasant place to sit in shade on a warm afternoon.
Beyond Bay Laurel Grove you’ll pass beyond the dairy and out to the rangeland of True Grass Farms. The cattle on this ranch aren’t making milk; they’re for meat. As cattle go, they enjoy some prime real estate. As a rancher I know says, “My cows have only one bad day.”
It is here that the Estero stretches out in a more or less straight mile running west northwest and gradually widening as it approaches Buckeye Bend.
Along this stretch of the Estero I often see Turkey Vultures, Ravens, and Hawks.
To the north is California Highway One.
And zooming in more
Highway One is far enough away so that the only vehicles you’re likely to hear are the unmuffled Harleys. If you know where to look, you can catch a glimpse of the traffic passing by. If you look north as you pass by Coyote Point, you should be able to see the traffic going by on the highway.
You’re just shy of halfway to the ocean when you reach Buckeye Bend.
Whale’s Tail marks the halfway point of the trip out to the coast. It’s a landmark that requires no explanation.
Just beyond Whale’s Tail the landscape opens up.
Sonoma Reach opens to the north of the main channel. Sadly there is barbed wire fencing blocking easy passage into this Reach.
Crossing the Reach and passing a Point on the Marin shore you arrive at the Hanging Gardens. A pair of Barn Owls had made their home in a cave near the top of the cliffs here.
Beyond the Hanging Gardens the Estero narrows briefly before opening to Marin Reach.
As you exit the broader waters of Marin Reach you enter the fiord-like Straits that pass by the Sonoma Land Trust site and lead to the beach. There is Inner Strait
and Outer Strait.
Each of these straits requires less than ten minutes of moderate paddling. As you paddle into Outer Strait the sound of surf will become more and more prominent.
Get out at the end. You’ve made it to the beach!
If you go on a weekday, you may find the beach entirely empty of other people, and, if you’re lucky, even empty of other human footprints. Of course you will see the flotsam and jetsam of humans. It’s everywhere.
I always bring a trash bag to pick up whatever trash I find.
Here is a link to a video panorama of the beach out there.