A Beach Without Footprints

Estero Americano is, again, a lovely place to paddle. On my last visit on February 13 the mouth had been open and the Estero’s tidally-influenced waters were too low to paddle to the coast.

But when I arrived at the launch this morning the calm water was nearly to the top of the channel.

The paddle out to the dairy in the warm morning sun was invigorating.

I caught up with and paddled past a couple in a canoe who had arrived ahead of me and were motoring halfway out to the coast. They told me that the mouth was open and the Estero was influenced by tides; I was almost certain that the mouth was closed.

Above us was a large variety of birds: hawks, vultures, ravens, crows, geese, ducks among others. This hawk, which was kiting, defies my ability to identify it. Maybe Larry will know.


Canada Geese are migrating north and stopping here to rest along their journey.

It took less than two hours to paddle the five and a half miles out to the ocean beach which was shrouded in a coastal peasouper.

Not many people find their way to this part of he Pacific Coast. The only human footprints on the beach today were the ones my feet made.

The sandbar at the mouth has indeed sealed the Estero up in all but the highest tides.

And the Estero should slowly fill up with the water running into it from its tributaries. This makes for a pretty place to paddle indeed.

On the return trip I saw

Great Blue Heron

A solitary Western Grebe, who kept well away from me.

Ravens gathered in a group of a dozen birds and put on a show of amazing aerobics. The ravens harassed any hawks and vultures who flew too nearby. It’s usually crows, not Ravens who gather in flocks, but these birds were definitely Ravens.

A breeding pair of Mergansers

And lots of cows from the dairy, including these  heifers.

Gotta love them!

Paddling in the Estero Americano is a great way to enjoy some animal-enriched solitude.

A map of the journey:

7 thoughts on “A Beach Without Footprints

  1. You know you are in the wilderness when you can’t see any other footprints – some nice misty moody photographs!

  2. Thanks Dan, nice photos and blog. I’m going to try this paddle myself. Gonna drag out my SoCo maps and locate your Marsh Rd put in. The put in I know about is off the road out of Valley Ford that goes out toward Dillion Beach. Is that the same one?

  3. Hi Tom,

    Thanks! Yep, same one. Take Franklin School Road from HWY 1 at Valley Ford and drive about 1 mile south. Turn left at the intersection with Marsh Road and left immediately again into the rough gravel driveway that leads back to the Estero.

    Make sure you get an early morning start so you don’t have to paddle 5 miles into the strong afternoon winds. Late starters often don’t make it all the way to the coast.

    Have a great time, and let me know how it went.

  4. Hi, Alden,

    One of the reasons I love that place is the solitude it provides. And, like you say, it’s often got nice moody atmospherics out there. Always a good day on the Estero.

  5. Ferruginous Hawk, (looks like an adult) a great over wintering guest… and a fantastic find… we were out doing a survey on Tuesday, at the Estero Coastal Preserve Section… both the Marin side and the Sonoma side are great areas to see our over-wintering birds of prey, Prairie Falcons, Merlin, Rough-legged and Ferruginous Hawks.. our Study Group “West County Hawkwatch” gets its name sake from the Marin and Sonoma West Counties area and the Estero is right in the middle of it.. we’ve been studying this area for 2 decades! but…. never from a boat! we need to get out with you Dan!

  6. other photo with the ravens…. Ravens are more coastal in the region and crows are more inland, that said in your photo you can see Turkey Vultures and a hawk in there as well, the hawk, looks like a Red-tailed but not 100% sure ….

  7. Larry, thank you for the info. The raven/hawk/tv show was absolutely mesmerizing. It went on for twenty minutes. The ravens really ganged up on the hawks and vultures. It was fun to watch.

    I am planning to go out again early on Monday for more birdwatching, especially birds of prey. Love to take you out on a boat out there.

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