Day After Thanksgiving Paddle

My friend, David, and I went for an afternoon paddle at the mouth of the Russian River on Friday, November 27. We were hoping to see and photograph the bald eagles that have been visiting the mouth in recent days. We didn’t.

When we arrived the launching area was surprisingly busy. It was hard to find a place to park, even in the 10-minute loading zone. There were ideal conditions for paddling, just a mild breeze blowing in from the ocean and the sun shining brightly. A number of kayaks plied the waters. With crowds of people like this, getting a good photo of a bald eagle seemed unlikely. That turned out to be true; we saw no eagles on this outing.

We paddled out to the mouth of the river, still open from the breaching work that was completed Monday.

Out to the Mouth

When the river’s mouth is open, fish swim back and forth between the river and the ocean through a narrow channel which makes for relatively easy fishing for seals, pelicans, cormorants, and other pescatarians.

A whole bunch of rather well-fed seals gathered at the mouth after feeding to rest. The seals seem to have enjoyed their own fishy version of a Thanksgiving feast.

Resting at the Mouth

You guys shouldn’t have taken seconds of pumpkin pie….

Apart from keeping an eye on human gawkers, the seals will occasionally groom themselves. In the photo below one seal is scratching his mussel with his fore foot. Look at those fingers!

Seal Scratching


We stayed near the mouth for a while being careful not to get too close to the area where the current begins to run swiftly into the ocean.


Almost straight across from the open mouth a kingfisher flew by and alighted on a stick along the right bank. He was a good distance away and flew off before I could approach any nearer.

Kingfisher at Mouth

Kingfisher at the mouth of the Russian River

We paddled down the back channel of Penny Island, hoping to see some birds, but a lot of the wildlife had departed because of the many people who had visitied this part of the river.

We landed on the eastern point of Penny Island, beaching our kayaks on a gravel bar that gets submerged when the mouth is closed.

We opened our hatches and grabbed sandwiches and hot tea in thermoses for our late lunch.



We got back aboard in the last hour of sunlight to paddle upstream in the hope of seeing an eagle, now that most of the other river kayakers had gone in.

No eagles, but a kingfisher tantalized me, flitting in and out of sight at the far edge of my camera’s range.

Kingfisher Upstream

In low lighting conditions, the camera makes the kingfisher appear bluer than it really is.

As darkness began to fall, we paddled back to the launch ramp, loaded our boats in the fading light, and drove back to Sebastopol.

4 thoughts on “Day After Thanksgiving Paddle

  1. It was crazy busy here in Bodega Bay as well . . . all beach parking lots full and overflow onto the highway . . . The Russian River paddle is one of my favorites . . .

  2. Dan, sounds like a great paddle. The seals sure seem fat, well fed and contented.

    The coast from what I can see in the photo seems to have the character of our west coasts in NZ – rugged, rough, with lots of lumber washed up on the beaches.

  3. Hi, beachmama. It’s a good thing that people want to come out into nature and share in the pleasure being outdoors. But once it gets crowded, the experience degrades somewhat because the animals skedaddle.

  4. Hi, Alden,

    Yes. I think there are many similarities between New Zealand and California. I’ve googled Whangarei, New Zealand and looked around the photos taken in your part of the world and it looks familiar. Culturally we share a lot in common as well except that today California is becoming rapidly more diverse and multicultural than it was fifty years ago when I was coming of age. I grew up in Palo Alto, the epicenter of Silicon Valley, which now looks quite different than it did before mini computers arrived.

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