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.

2 thoughts on “Big River, Mendocino County

  1. I call big river the suck you in river as the further you go, the nicer it gets, the trees start to hang over the water and the water is usually flat back there. I think you guys got just a little further than I have as I’ve never had enough water to get me to the pruning area, but almost.
    Good post.

  2. Thanks, Bob. You’re right about the currents on Big River. They really can carry you along. If anyone plans to paddle these rivers, it’s important to time them so you launch a couple of hours before high tide so that you can ride the flooding current going upstream, take a break, and wait for the ebb current to carry you back to the car.

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