Big River

With a lunar eclipse and a “Supermoon” the moon and sun are aligned with the earth in a way that produces an unusually high midday tide. These are ideal conditions to paddle the estuaries open to the ocean along the coast of Northern California.

I took myself out on a solo trip to Big River near the quaint town of Mendocino. My idea was to arrive at the mouth in time for last of the flood tide, ride it upstream a few miles, have lunch, and then ride the ebbing current back to the coast. But I overslept and when I finally arrived at the launch ramp a bit past 10:00 AM the tide was 7.3’ high and the current was slack. Not a problem, really, just a little more exercise than planned to get upstream.

Solo paddling starts out feeling a bit lonely. Loneliness is keened weekdays on this quiet, wild coast. I encountered only one other human the whole day—a paddler who was finishing his trip as I was beginning my own.

When out on an estuary, the absence of human companionship almost guarantees the presence of mammalian and avian company. There was plenty to see:

Great Blue Herons

Harbor Seals

Western Grebes

River Otters





And much else that I was unable to photograph well enough for here: Red Tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, Bufflehead Ducks, Mallards, Kingfishers,


Mendocino Land Trust has done much to protect, preserve, and enhance the Big River Estuary. It’s wonderful to see so many signs of recovery of the ecosystem here. You can learn more about their efforts—and see a great trail map of the multi use path that follows the northern shore of this wonderful estuary at their website:


3 thoughts on “Big River

  1. Loved this write up and the photos. Especially the otters. Thanks for the inspiration.

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