Big River, Again

I decided to paddle on Big River both days of my two-day visit to the Mendocino coast. It is a beautiful river and I hadn’t paddled all the way to the end on the first day. Mostly I wanted to watch the otters again.

I got out ahead of the 11:00 AM high tide Thursday morning. Unlike the day before, there were several other paddlers near the launch area under the bridge. I didn’t want human company, so I quickly paddled upstream far enough to have the company of only wild creatures.

In an hour I was further upstream than I had managed to get the day before, carried by the moon’s magic carpet ride—the flood tide.

The river narrowed quite quickly between steep and heavily wooded banks. There is practically no place to easily or safely exit a kayak to take a lunch or bathroom break. But it is very quiet and peaceful. A lovely Madrone tree leaned out over the river channel in search of sunlight.

I continued about three miles farther. I had to turn around where a tree had fallen across the river (more of a stream at this point) making further progress in a kayak complicated.

I saw pretty much the same cast of wild animal characters who had entertained me the day before. Many of them, like these Western Grebes, were in almost exactly the same place on the river that they had been the day before.

The otter family, though, had swum upstream more than a mile. They were not skittish in the least. I wondered if they recognized me from the day before and knew I would mind my manners, not approach them too closely, and just observe them.

They let me get within about ten meters. I watched their mutual grooming and snuggling.

Otters appeal to humans, I think, because they seem to enjoy communal full-body snuggling, like we may have enjoyed as young children, if lucky enough to grow up in a large, snuggly family.

This fellow, after crawling up on top of his buddy turned his head upside down and snoozed for a short while.

Note the upside down head of the fellow on top

I watched the otter family of six for a good half hour before leaving them to their antics. In a little more than three hours I paddled 12 miles, assisted each mile, both ways, by a current running in my direction.

If you plan a paddle here, check the tide charts so that you’re having lunch at high tide!

Here is a map of my journey on Big River.




3 thoughts on “Big River, Again

  1. Hi, Alden. Sadly no beavers in California to speak of, and none in the estuaries I paddle. Before the arrival of Europeans in California (Spaniards, Russians, Mexicans, then United States frontiersmen) beavers were present in large numbers. They built beaver dams that helped the salmon, steelhead and other fish species that swim through estuaries on their way to their spawning grounds. Beavers because of their highly valued furs were quickly decimated with disastrous consequences throughout the web of life that depended upon them. Many Americans would like to see beavers return to California, but there are also many who oppose this. Such is life these days in the divided (United) States. Not much WE in the US these days!

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