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.

 

Red Hill Hike

One of the best hikes in Western Sonoma County is the four mIle loop to the top of Red Hill. It begins on the coastal bluff above Shell Beach and climbs, steeply at first, then gradually, to the 860′ summit.

My wife and I enjoyed watching the aerobatic antics of a pair of ravens, the purposeful and deliberate manoevers of birds of prey, and the turkey vultures’majestic slope soaring and thermaling.

On a clear day you can see north to Fort Ross, south to Point Reyes, east to Mount St. Helena, and more than 35 nautical miles out to the Pacific Ocean’s horizon.

The views are long and the scenery is varied–forests, rangeland, ocean, the lower Russian River Estuary, and the tiny seaside hamlet of Jenner.

Looking south from Jenner you can see Red Hill in the distance.

If you’re able to get away for a half day in natural splendor, this is a great place to visit.

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.

Mouth is Closed

The mouth of the Russian River is closed again two days after the Sonoma County Water Agency breached it. Large waves washed sand into the channel dug by the Agency’s track hoe.

mouth-closed-nov-12

Water level in the estuary stands at 5′ at the Jenner Visitor’s Center. That’s about a foot below the level it was when I paddled there last Wednesday.

A pair of Bald Eagles have been visiting this area. They were there this morning, sitting on Haystack Rock just before I took this photo.

I enjoyed talking with fellow naturalist Larry Tiller who was at the overlook with his camera.