Russian River Estuary Opened

The Sonoma County Water Agency breached the mouth of the Russian River early this afternoon.

I had paddled the upper Russian River estuary the past couple of days, once on my SUP up to Bohemian Grove…

….and again yesterday with my wife in the canoe. On this second outing we made it all the way to the upper limit of the estuarine waters at the Summer Crossing between Guerneville and Monte Rio.

Summer Crossing near Guerneville where the first discernible downstream current is felt when the estuary is full

Here’s a map of some of the second paddle up to the Summer Crossing.

When the estuary gets so full that it is basically a lake from Jenner to Guerneville it begins to flood summer homes along the Jenner shoreline and the Sonoma County Water Agency steps in to breach the levee of sand pushed up into the mouth of the river by the Pacific surf.

We arrived to witness the breaching, but CalTrans work on Highway 1 delayed the delivery of the excavator to Goat Rock Beach where the breaching was to take place. There was no excavator, just an empty beach and a full lagoon.

To pass the time waiting for the excavator to arrive my wife and I took a walk along the coast on the Kortum Trail from Shell Beach to Wright’s Beach. Wright’s Beach has nice pebbly stretches mixed in with ordinary sandy sand.

Fine pebbles on Wright’s Beach

When we returned to the Jenner overlook in the misty mid afternoon, the breaching of the estuary had just been completed and the water began flowing out the the Pacific Ocean.

 

Harbor Seals were swimming in the lagoon and in the Pacific surf just where the fresh water was running out to the ocean. We could see a few making their way back and forth between the two.

 

Richardson Bay, January 31, 2017

Weather forecasts predict rainy weather soon. I was hoping to get one more estuarine outing in January.

Lyrinda emailed me to suggest a Richardson Bay outing on today’s midday high tide and in light northeast winds. I had not visited Richardson Bay since my trip with nephew John back in August, 2016.

Soon after starting we passed a snoozing Pelican.

Pelican on Piling

Many animals rest near the yachts and houseboats along Sausalito’s shore. They are accustomed to human spectators and learn to tolerate curiosity and cameras.

Lyrinda approaching a flotilla of Harbor Seals

Many harbor seals haul out on docks and logs and rafts.

Just a few of many scores of seals

North of here, where I usually paddle, hunting is common. Birds won’t let a paddler get within 200 feet.

Here, near the marinas, it’s a different story. This Western Grebe didn’t seem alarmed even though it was within about 30 feet of the camera.

Western Grebe

Cormorants were abundant.

Cormorant looking for herring, probably.

Eight or more Great Blue Herons stood watch under the Highway 101 bridge that crosses over Richardson Bay. The last of the flooding current carried us slowly toward them. Paddles resting across cockpits, cameras busy, we floated by, very near them.

Great Blue Heron under the 101 bridge

We paddled toward Mill Valley to E. Blithedale Ave. In the marshes of Bayfront Park we saw many shorebirds.

Aptly named Greater Yellowlegs

Least Sandpipers (I think.)

Least Sandpiper? This bird bobbed its tail in a distinctive way.

And many other birds as well—Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Canada Geese, and others.

On the way back we picked our way among the many houseboats of Waldo Point. We paddled for three hours and covered a little more than nine miles.

Great Blue at Waldo Point, Sausalito

If you need to escape the dizzying dismay of your daily newsfeed—as I do—I recommend getting outside in nature and looking into the eyes of wild things.

A map of our journey:

Jenner December 29, 2016

This morning I took my son-in-law paddling on the Russian River Estuary in fine winter weather. We saw the pair of Bald Eagles who are often there.

It’s good to have binoculars when kayaking.

We saw Harbor Seals, Sea Lions, Cormorants, a Great Blue Heron, a few Mallards, flocks of Buffleheads, and a half dozen Mergansers.

We visited with Bob Noble, the only other paddler we saw. More at Bob at Bob’s Eyes.

The mouth of the river is open.

 

Waqqas enjoyed his first paddle.

 

 

Jenner, 12 December

A brown Russian River is rushing into the Pacific. From the Highway One overlook at Jenner the river’s waters are turning the normally clear blue Pacific an opaque brown for about a mile out to sea.

That brown water signals the steelhead to swim upstream. The steelhead in turn, attract others.

A Bald Eagle stood for a time on Haystack Rock at the mouth. Here is a closer look:

Many seals swam near the mouth.

More trash than usual is washing downstream. Among the usual alcohol and energy-drink bottles, tennis balls and beach toys, was this inflatable dolphin-shaped pool toy.