Jenner’s Sandbar, October 29, 2015

I went out to Jenner to see the sandbar at the mouth of the Russian River. The National Weather Service had put out an advisory for big waves, so I thought that it could be interesting.

Sure enough, soon after paddling out I could see the tops of the waves crashing into the ocean side of the sandbar.

Wave over sandbar #1


Larger waves tossed spray dramatically up into the air.


Wave and Gulls Over Sandbar


Some waves sent a wash of Pacific water running down the backside of the bar and into the River.

Waves Washing Over Bar


The parts of the sandbar that had lots of waves washing over were empty of birds, seals, and people as in the photo above. Most of the animals seem to prefer sand that isn’t being washed with waves.

One small place on the bar was situated just right to stay dry.  Waves went to one side or the other of this small area, leaving whoever sat there dry.

Silver Seals on Sandbar


This is the “in-crowd” of seal society. They looked content to bask in the sun. Lower-status seals or who were latecomers had to make do at the edges of the dry zone and take the occasional cold water tummy bath.


Seals awash on bar

It was windy at at the mouth yesterday. Not too many people ventured out on the Russian River that day, or if they did, they didn’t stay long. One person who was there was fellow kayaker, photographer, and blogger, Bob Noble.



More about Bob in a later post.

Albion River, Wednesday October 28, 2015

Those of us who stayed at the Harbor Lite Motel had the continental breakfast there before leaving to drive south to the Albion River. I noticed the full moon setting in the western sky amid many clouds that had delivered little of the rain they had been forecast.

We stopped by the Little River Cemetery to see a sinkhole that Joe and Sue knew about. It’s probably hard to tell by looking at this photo, but, I aimed my camera almost straight down to a circle of beach sand below. The white is foam from an ocean wave arriving via a short tunnel/cave extending out to the beach.

Sinkholes like this one are not exactly uncommon, but still they’re weird and a bit scary. The split rail fencing installed around the rim were in a state of moderate disrepair. It didn’t matter to me; there was enough poison oak to keep me away from getting too near the edge.


You can get a view from the bottom from a fellow who made this Youtube video from the beach below.

We didn’t stay too long;  there was a 9:30 time to be OTW (On The Water) on the Albion River. We drove a little bit further and took a switchback-y driveway down to Schooner Landing, a campground/boat launching area where our journey up the Albion would begin.


Schooner Landing, Albion River

When we arrived Ray and Lyrinda were already there. It was good to see Ray. He’d driven up from Petaluma to be with us for the day. So there would be nine of us: Joe and Sue, Mike and Diana, Ray, Joan, Holly, Lyrinda, and me.

Schooner Landing has recently changed hands. It’s now owned by Gabriella Levine, a former Kaiser surgeon who wanted a change of pace. She’s already made some improvements and upgrades to the place and hoping to attract clientele like the Petaluma Padders.

Soon we were ready to go. As we did the day before on the Big River, we decided to paddle out to the mouth against the strong flooding current before heading upstream. To make any progress against the current it was necessary to seek out counter currents inside the eddy line along the banks. But with some effort we all managed to paddle the 3/4 mile out to the bridge and a little beyond.



Once beyond the bridge the ocean made itself felt,  rocking our kayaks. The current pushed us back into the river.IMG_5401


The current that had hindered our progress on the way out gave us a big push into the river. My GPS said I hit more than 13 miles per hour paddling with the current, but I think it tends to exaggerate at times. Whatever the speed, it was pretty quick for a kayak.



We paddled into the river passing a few houseboats along the way.



The river passed through some second-growth forest (probably third, forth, or fifth growth, actually). Both banks of the Albion River are privately owned by lumber companies. They seem to be practicing sustainable forestry; the river could not have been more pleasing to the eye.



We paddled on about five miles upriver until we could go no farther. Lyrinda and I paddle the shortest boats in the crowd. Our boats are most easily maneuvered through the obstacles that increasingly impeded progress upstream as the river narrowed.



We turned around when going forward would have required robust pruning tools.

Soon we got to the place where everyone had pulled out for a shared potluck lunch.

Ray wandered away from the lunch and came back with a straight stick perfect for a javelin competition. Everyone took part. Joe was the undisputed champion. Holly won the log paddling competition, but then she was the only person among us game to have a go in that event.

You can see photos of the whole paddle taken by the Petaluma Paddlers photojournalist, Lyrinda here. <<<<<Really click on that link.

Lyrinda’s photographic skills are head and shoulders above mine.

It was a great day to paddle in a great place with some great company.

There’s already some talk about a camping trip to Schooner Landing. It would be fun.

Here’s a map. Be sure to click on the map and then on the “View Flybys” on the next screen to see the version of the map enhanced by topographic effects.

Big River, Mendocino County

My paddling group took two days this week to visit Mendocino County and paddle two rivers, Big River on Tuesday and the Albion River on Wednesday.

In this post we’ll have a glance at Tuesday’s trip on Big River.

Light rain fell as we got started, but the rain did not dampen our spirits in the least. Inside our kayaks we were warm and dry. Raindrops drumming on the brim of a hat and splashing into the water make a pleasant sibilant sound.


Looking upriver from launch. Click to enlarge.

We started out going upriver on the flooding tidal current, but thought better of it and turned around, paddling against the current (but literally, downstream) to head out to the mouth of the river. We paddled out to the Highway 1 bridge spanning Big River.


Highway One Bridge (Click to enlarge)

Once we passed under the bridge we could feel the ocean waves gently rocking our kayaks and urging them back into the relative safety of the river itself.

I have enormous respect for the ocean (and, I hope, a realistic assessment of my limited paddling skills) so I did not go very far past the bridge.


At the mouth where the river meets the Pacific. (Click to enlarge)


Once we were back in the river, we followed the flooding tide upstream inland. The scenery was really beautiful, wooded on both banks.


There was not as much wildlife as I would have expected to see in a place this wild, but that’s almost certainly because I was one of a group of talkative paddlers. Animals heard us coming from a long, long ways off and made they themselves scarce.

One exception to the rule was this pair of harbor seals hauled out a mile or so up the river. They didn’t seem to mind our chatting away as we paddled by. (Well, from the look on the face of the seal on the right, maybe they did mind. But they stayed put on their haul-out spots rather than roll off into the river.)


You can see the raindrops splashing into the river. (Click to enlarge)

We paddled as far as we could go without pruning tools to cut away branches, about 7.3 miles upstream from the mouth.

Soon after turning around, we stopped on a grassy bank and hauled our kayaks out of the river. We opened up the hatches and brought out food to share, as is the custom of our group.

We enjoyed for a sumptuous potluck lunch and chatted away for more than an hour until we could see the flooding tidal currents had ended and an ebb tide was about to begin.

We climbed back into our kayaks, now afloat on the grassy bank which we had been dry land when we hauled them out to begin our lunch.

If you count the miles gained by riding favorable currents, we paddled 14.6 miles. That’s far enough that we all came back happy and a little tired.

Here is a map of our day’s paddle. (Word to the wise: Click this map. A new window will pop up. Look at the bottom of that window for a link by the word Strava Labs. The link to click on is “View Flybys” You will be rewarded with a much-enhanced contour map.)

Tuesday evening our group went to dinner at Cucina Verona “Where Northern Italian meets Northern California Cuisine” where we thoroughly enjoyed their Tuesday night Family Style special meal. Their website: Cucina Verona

Next post: Wednesday’s paddle on the Albion River.

Russian River Estuary Video

Here is a video from the Sonoma County Water Agency about the Russian River Estuary. It’s 3 minutes long and explains why the Water Agency no longer breaches the mouth to make the river tidal. It’s well worth watching, if, like me, you’re interested in the estuary.

You’ll get to see some nice aerial photos of one of the areas I love to paddle.

Lagunitas Creek

Today I went  paddling with my club on Tomales Bay. We launched at Millerton Park across from Inverness in the southern part of the bay.


We paddled south from the beach under gray skies.



We entered the slough formed by Lagunitas Creek as it flows into Tomales Bay.


As we made our way south, the slough narrowed and freshened into something resembling more a creek than a slough. Although we were about 10 miles inland from the mouth of Tomales Bay, I spotted a harbor seal.


Lagunitas Creek gets more and more wooded the farther upstream you go. Here is what it looks like just before we reached Point Reyes Station.


A little further on and you come to California State Highway One and the green bridge that crosses Lagunitas Creek just south of Point Reyes Station.


I paddled the better part of a mile beyond this bridge until I encountered enough brushy obstacles to turn me around.


Upstream from here is the place where some home-brew beer makers got the idea to start a business. They named their brewery after the creek out the back door, Lagunitas Creek. And thus, Lagunitas Brewery was born.

We paddlers found a nice spot to have a potluck lunch which we enjoyed as the gloomy clouds departed and the sun came out.


The paddle back to Millerton Park was pleasant and aided by an ebb tide current. We passed a half dozen White Pelicans along the way.


Soon after taking the photo of the White Pelicans, a mild breeze came up, enough to think better of taking any more photos lest the spray from the bow of my kayak ruin my camera.