Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Northern California
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Biking in the Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Northern California Hiking in the Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Northern California Boating in the Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Northern California Ocean Beach Activities near the Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Northern California Horseback Riding in the Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Northern California Fishing in the Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Northern California Golf in the Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Northern California Hot Air Ballooning in the Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Northern California
   
Boating in the Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Northern California When & Where: Boating in the Russian River Valley takes place on the Russian River, and the season runs from April through October, extended in years where there is little rain in the late fall and/or late spring.

During boating season, the Russian River has no white water, just a few currents here and there, an amiably gentle river for novices and a relaxing paddle for the experienced.

The winter river is another matter. Swift, dark, cold, and high, the river is unsafe and unsuitable for recreational boating.

How: Canoes and kayaks are the boats of choice, while inner tubes provide a lot of fun. All are available for rent or you can bring your own:

   
Russian River Adventures We run a beautiful, secluded eight mile stretch of the Russian River. A perfect trip for families, couples, and corporate outings. Great beaches, picnicking, swimming, rope swings, bird life and fun. Dog and people friendly. 707-433-5599
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Although children don't seem to mind the gravel at the beaches, adults might want to avoid the ouch factor and invest in an inexpensive pair of river shoes, available in stores on Main Street in Guerneville.
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  • Boat Rentals: The season of operation for boat rentals varies from year to year, depending upon when boating becomes safe in the spring and when it becomes unsafe in the fall. If boat rentals are not offered, you can assume the river is not suitable for boating. There are both canoe and kayak rentals along the Russian River; some offer shuttles for pickup, others will deliver kayaks to you and retrieve them at the end of the rental.
  • Bringing Your Own Boats: If you are traveling with your own kayaks or canoes, there are free boat launches in Guerneville at Johnson's Beach, Monte Rio at the Monte Rio Public Beach, and Healdsburg at the Healdsburg Memorial Beach. There is plenty of parking at these locations. To the east of Guerneville you can launch at Steelhead Beach in Forestville where there is a day use fee. At the mouth of the river in Jenner, there is a small boat launch next to the Visitor's Center. Along the coast from Jenner to Bodega Bay, the paths down to the beaches tend to be long and steep, but you can launch anywhere you can carry your boat. There are no day use fees at these beaches.

Boating to See Wildlife: The best way to see Russian River wildlife is by kayak. Birds are plentiful as dozens of species are found here, among them ospreys, red-tail hawks, kingfishers, kites, all types of herons, egrets, cormorants, swallows, crows, turkey vultures, ducks, and geese, along with brown pelicans at the mouth of the river in the fall. From Duncans Mills to the mouth of the river you may encounter harbor seals venturing from their nursery in the estuary. River otters slide down the banks and turtles sun on logs anywhere along the river; deer come down to drink, as do mountain lions although such a sighting is rare indeed. Bobcats are sighted on the hills above the river.

And Swimming! The Russian River is clean, safe, and swimmable from mid-May through September. There are public access beaches for swimming in Guerneville, Monte Rio, Forestville and Healdsburg, along with private beaches along the river. Many vacation rentals provide access to neighborhood beaches or have their own docks. Beaches tend to be a mixture of gravel and sandy areas, varying greatly each year as the winter river re-distributes the sand and gravel.

There is little to no current at the beaches and the river is generally shallow for some distance from the beaches. A channel with gentle current runs on the non-beach side of the river, switching from side to side along the way. Summer dams, installed in mid-June and dismantled in late September to early October, provide a stable water level for boating and swimming. Many homes on the river have docks which cannot be installed until the dams bring up the water level.

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