A Windy Paddle and a Kayaker Goes Out the River’s Mouth and Dies

Wednesday December 23, 2015 Jenner CA.

Might be a bit windy today

I didn’t hear any rain this morning when I got it going, so I checked the weather report for Jenner. The wind was going to be around ten miles an hour. I can handle that. I also checked the tides as the river was up from the recent rains and flowing with a bit of current. High tide was 6.6ft. this morning around eight thirty if I remember right. High tide would back the river up decreasing the current in the lower estuary. But low tide was about –1.0ft this afternoon which meant the river current would even be greater with all the water that would be trying to get out of the estuary into the ocean from being backed up by the high tide.

Things looked pretty good as I drove into Jenner. A light wind with some clouds in the sky. The river water was fairly muddy and high, but still backed up fairly well from the earlier high tide, so the current wasn’t much as I crossed over to Penny Island and sat in the little channel on the upper end for a half hour or so, here.channel


One of the things I was watching was this great blue heron. It seemed to be sunning and also catching things in the shallow water. Maybe small fish and maybe some bugs too.heron2


Headed up river

Eventually I left the heron there and moved on up the river along the south shore, taking my time working my way up to the muskrat area. The wind was picking up a bit as I went.

I sat around the muskrat area for a spell, then started back down the river along the same shoreline. I could see the tide had changed and the river water was picking up current and making some big waves in some places.

I worked my way down by Penny Island and along it’s side to this spot where I had to cross over the river to the boat ramp over there. With the wind blowing good now, I decided not to go down the river any further.

White capping waves

The only thing was the current had picked up and so had the wind so there were some big waves moving up the river out there that I was going to have to cross. It may look mellow from this spot, but there are some fairly big waves out there white capping.crossing


I shot this picture of the buffle headed ducks just before I started across. See the white capped wave in back of them. I had to go through a bunch of them, bigger than that,  to get to the boat ramp.buffles


The trick

The waves were pretty big. To keep from getting waves over the side, the trick is to keep the boat near ninety degrees to the oncoming waves, which means to hit them straight on which I did as they were the biggest waves I’ve been in. I don’t use what they call a splash guard or skirt, so my cockpit is open and I have to be careful.

Because of that, I ended up way past the boat ramp, here, before I could get close enough to shore to get out of the big waves and take it easy again. Note the boat ramp is way down there, but now I can go along the shoreline where the waves are much less.wavesriver



I made it back to the boat ramp ok. I was throwing some of the wood off the boat ramp when I heard several sirens from trucks.ramp


Eventually the trucks making all the noise drove out onto the beach down by the jetty.

This was all I could see from the boat ramp. The lifeguards truck and some people.truck


I decided to get my boat on the car and go down to the overlook to have a look. This usually means someone got washed into the ocean or something like that.

At the overlook

When I arrived at the overlook and got out and looked down at the jetty, I could see these two guys walking on the jetty, looking for something.scopingout


I asked the people at the overlook if they knew what was going on, but none did, but they pointed out there was a kayak sitting on the beach by the jetty with no one in it.

There’s the yellow kayak sitting on the sand, just behind the jetty.kayak


Cal Fire shows up

Shortly after that two Cal fire trucks pulled in and stopped for a moment. I asked one of the guys that got out what’s up?

He said a kayaker went out the mouth. One kayaker was ok by the jetty, but the other one wasn’t found  yet. I told him no one up here had seen anything. He said thanks and both trucks moved up the road to an overlook where a trail goes down to the north beach.

The fire trucks are parked in this spot at the trailhead which goes down to the beach which I could see from the overlook where I was.firetrucks


All this meant the kayaker went out the mouth through this, moving to the right and down along the shoreline moving north. This is the open river’s mouth,…………… raging.mouth


More information shows up

A car pulled in and two people got out that had some more of the story. They said they were down at the jetty and two kayakers came down the river and into the mouth and made it over to behind the jetty where there is a back eddy and it is safe. The two people said they felt relieved for the kayakers and then left for their car back at the parking lot. When they got to the parking lot, they ran into the Lifeguard trucks with the sirens headed down towards the jetty. So now we have more of the story. But the kayakers should have been safe. Did they try to play in the raging mouth? Maybe one of them did?

Our view from the overlook

The lady in pink was down at the jetty when the kayakers came down earlier. We are looking over the side watching the rescuers and looking for the lost kayaker down on the beach and out in the ocean.overlook


The river’s water is flowing up along the beach there on the ocean side, so that’s where the rescuers are looking which came down from the fire trucks up on the hill to the right.ocean


Some of the rescue guys

We could see the rescue guys as they made their way onto the beach and started looking.lookers


In a short time one of them held up the guys paddle, not good.paddle


I didn’t know at the time they’d found his boat too, but they were too busy looking for him to deal with it.

Later they came back and got the boat. They are empting out the water from inside the boat here. boat


Since they now had time to deal with the boat, I assume they found the guy, but I don’t know if he made it or not. Most likely not, looking at that raging water.


Update: Checking the local paper, The Press Democrat, they found the guys body in the water around three PM about an hour after it happened. They said about one mile south, but I think they might have meant north as that is the way the current was flowing.

This was the view off the overlook just before I headed on home for the day.sunview


I puttered with a few things when I got home and that was my day.

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7 Responses to A Windy Paddle and a Kayaker Goes Out the River’s Mouth and Dies

  1. Patti Godwin says:

    Sorry to see this news. We have to respect Mother Nature. I feel for his family.

  2. Ken Solbakken says:

    A sadder Christmas for Mr. Wood’s family and loved ones would be hard to imagine. Reading your account and the PD story this morning sadness and empathy came upon me. I flashed back to my high school year and the winter we lost Rex Duprey canoeing at flood stage with his friend. I have had some close calls over the years on the river, most of them by my poor judgment, recklessness and lack of respect for the water.

    There is some unanswered questions about this tragedy we might never find out:
    One question that sticks in my head is if the two kayakers were seen safe near the jetty after shooting the mouth, how or why did Mr. Wood end up back in the ocean? I noticed your photo of the recovered kayak on the beach and the photo the PD posted were different boats, maybe his friends?

    Again as always thank you for your informative and interesting blogs. No beavers yet.

    Happy holidays, Ken

  3. Meg says:

    Happy holidays, Bob.

  4. Meg says:

    This is a very sad story. I know the tide was pulling hard today, low tide mid-afternoon, and with the recent storms the river current has been strong and the ocean rough. One reason I love this blog is it helps keep us all safe. I always check here to find out what the prevailing river conditions are and whether or not the mouth is open.

    My heart feels heavy and I am sorry for this gentleman and his loved ones. Thank you for your report. It reminds us all to be smart and safe. It’s a beautiful but powerful river, and still a wild place.

    • Bob says:

      Hi Meg,
      The tide was going out big time and dumping all the water in the estuary into the ocean right as they entered the mouth. They couldn’t of hit it at a worse time. It’s something that should not happen, but it does remind us all to be safe all the time. Today would have been a bad day for anyone without a lot of experience in their yak to be in the estuary. I think it was the roughest day I’ve been in the estuary, just set up by the right conditions. The only thing good about people”s bad mistakes like this is hopefully it’ll make the rest of us a little safer from hearing about the experience, we agree on that.
      Have a nice Holiday Meg.

  5. dangurney51 says:

    Glad you made it safely back to the launching ramp, Bob. It does look windy in your photos. I was paddling at Estero Americano today. It was really windy there too. It pays to be extra careful out there. Sad that someone lost their life at the mouth of the Russian River today! Thanks for the report.

    • Bob says:

      With the wind and theestuary real full dumping water, I’d say this was my roughest day in the estuary so far. I always wonder about my camera getting wet and am not ready to lose another one yet. :O)
      Have a happy holiday Dan.

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