Calm Above, Still Below

Part of the mission of Estuarian is to remind myself and everyone I who might happen by here that the natural world is still incredibly beautiful, still miraculous, still worth savoring and definitely worth our efforts to save it.

It is important to get outside and enjoy it as much as possible, to learn more about nature when we go out, and to do what we can to help, even if its as simple as picking up the trash we find along the way.

Going out with friends almost always makes it more fun, but to see nature up close, it’s worth going out solo and stealthily. When we go out with others it’s hard not to enjoy conversation—and when we talk, a lot of animals take cover and hide long before we’re aware of them.

Check out this photo, taken on my most recent outing. I’ll share a secret about it at the end.


Russian River, from Laurel Dell, looking downstream towards the Catholic Retreat site.

This photo brings to mind one of my favorite quotes:

“The great lessons from the true mystics … is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends, and family, in one’s backyard, and that travel may be a flight from confronting the sacred. To be looking everywhere for miracles is a sure sign of ignorance that everything is miraculous.” 

-Abraham H. Maslow

(PS—The secret about the photo: It’s upside down. I inverted it.)

Quick Trip to Jenner: Russian River Lagoon

The mouth of the Russian River is closed, sealed shut by a sandbar. Waters in the lagoon have risen to about 6 feet at the visitors center launch area.

Most of the Harbor Seals have left. Only a few remain near the mouth. In their place are hundreds of migrating Brown Pelicans and Gulls.


Waves crashed against the rocks near the jetty. Some of the bigger waves shot grand plumes of spray into the air.

splash-91916 splash2-91916

Signs posted on the shores around Penny Island asked the public NOT to remove trash or debris from the shore.


As a retired educator I complied with the request stated on the sign.


This zori was a few feet from the sign. I left it there.

It was surprisingly hard to leave the trash where it was. Picking up trash in the river is sort of habit forming.

Sonoma County Water Agency Opens the Russian River Estuary

At about 9:00 this morning the Sonoma County Water Agency opened a channel in the sandbar at the mouth of the Russian River Estuary to avoid flooding waterfront properties in the lower Russian River.

Backhoe Closeup 6:27:16

Note the worker in the red PFD. He was part of a surveying crew.

The work was accomplished using this big excavator, called a track hoe, because of the tracks it rides on and the big boom and bucket similar to what is found on a backhoe. (I guess it’s not coincidental that “track hoe” rhymes with “backhoe.”)

A survey crew was on hand to help manage the depth of the channel. The elusive goal is to let just a little of the water out, down to 7 feet as measured at the visitors center in Jenner. By keeping the lagoon almost full they make conditions ideal for young salmonids to feed and grow. The warm lagoon waters are full of little creatures, mostly invertebrates, that the salmonoid fry like to eat.

Last time the water agency excavated a channel in the mouth, the water running out scoured an ever-deeper channel and the level of the river receded down to just above the level at low tide, about two feet or so. The fast-emptying lagoon washed the fish fry out into the ocean before they were ready for the presumably greater challenges of life in the ocean.

Moment of Truth 6:27:16

About two hours before the 0.5′ low tide they opened the channel and water began running gently out of the lagoon making the lagoon an estuary once more. Within 30 minutes harbor seals were using the new channel to transit between estuary and ocean.

Seals Swim Upstream

About a dozen or so of interested onlookers watched from the turnout above the mouth. Several spectators—equipped with expensive camera gear trained on a small group of seals sunning on the beach about 50 meters north of the excavation—watched after the welfare of these pinnipeds. Others observers were from the Water Agency providing oversight to be sure everything would proceed according to plan.

Here’s a video of the first moments of the opening of the mouth.

Here is another video showing the harbor seals swimming through it taken about a half hour later.


Visiting the Russian River Estuary

The Russian River Estuary is filling up now that the mouth has closed. My wife and I got up early this morning to take our canoe out to see the wildlife out there and to pick up whatever garbage we could find.

Jenner 6:3:16

It was calm when we arrived.

We paddled out to the mouth and then upriver stopping at a pasture for a break. We saw about 70 Harbor Seals at the (now closed) mouth, Cormorants, Great Blue Herons, Loons, Mallard Ducks, Caspian Terns, Pelicans, Canadian Geese, and Turkey Vultures. Although we hoped to see something a bit more unusual, specifically River Otter or perhaps, a Bald Eagle, none showed themselves to us.

All along the way, we found flotsam and jetsam to pluck out of the river and take to the garbage receptacle at Jenner launch site.

We stopped by the visitor center to buy a gift for our daughter’s best friends newborn baby girl.

A wonderful morning followed by a fantastic creekside lunch we enjoyed on our way home at Fork’s restaurant.

Map of today’s outing: