Checking Out the Russian River Estuary During Flood Stage

Friday December 12, 2014 Jenner CA.

Or checking the estuary out at 47, 000 plus feet per second

I was a bit slow getting it going this morning from all the work yesterday. My back was keeping me bent over, so I put the ice pack on for twenty minutes and took two Aleve’s which got me going.


It was showering fairly hard, so I wasn’t sure what to do today. I decided I’d drive down to Jenner and check out the mouth from the overlook on the highway and decide whether to kayak or not. I knew the river was up a bit a flowing fairly fast, so I wasn’t sure about things, but I’d been out on it before like this, well, maybe not quite this fast, but similar.

It was still raining in Jenner as I arrived and pulled in at the overlook at the river’s mouth I sat and watched for a bit and  talked with several people when the rain started to let up, so I got the camera out.

This is the river’s mouth spilling out into the Pacific ocean. The current is too fast to be down this way in a kayak, so I considered not going out today.ruverniyt


Boat ramp

I drove on back to the boat launch knowing full well if I stopped here, I’d likely go on out on the river in my boat.

So, I pulled into the parking lot with intensions of just studying things on the river a bit to see what I thought.

Here is the boat ramp with lots of debrie on it from when the river was higher a short time ago.jenner


It looked like the river was in the parking lot too, just a bit, in front of the visitor center.viist


Some damage to the visitor center deck

I went through the yellow caution tape to see what shape the visitor center deck was in. There was a lot of debrie and some of the deck boards were lifted up. Logs and stuff get caught under the structure and when the water rises, the wood pushes up the deck. Looking down river towards the mouth.deck


Do it

I stood around in the parking lot talking with some people and decided to do it.

So, I backed my car over and unloaded my boat and put in.

I see the water level was just above ten feet not long ago and almost into the floor of the center and maybe it was? You can see the water line on the shingles on the wall on the left. This is the deck with the debrie and the lifted deck boards.gage


The river was moving fast

The water’s current was going fairly fast, I’d say at least ten miles an hour,which is faster than I can paddle. I figure I can paddle around five miles an hour,  so no way could I paddle up the middle of the river,…..But.

Along the edges

If I stay on the river’s edges, I can paddle up the river. In fact fairly easily, so I stayed on the side of the river I started on and paddled up the river a bit, until I was far enough up river from the little channel at the east end  of Penny Island and started my crossing to Penny Island, knowing the river would take me down a ways. The idea is to go across with the bow up river at about a forty five angle, letting the river take me across and not working too hard at it, ending up near where I wanted to be on the other side, which in this case was the little channel on the end of Penny Island where I knew the current would be less.

I’m traveling up the river on the edge just above the boat ramp and am about to turn right into the current and cross the river to the island. The river is moving at least ten miles an hour just a few feet to the right of me.russianriver


Nothing eats fish when the water is muddy

The water is nice and muddy, which means it’s the safest time for all the spawning fish that come into the river and for any fish that need to return to the ocean. During this time of muddy water, the fish can do their thing and almost nothing eats them or catches them. I call it the safest time for the fish and they can do their thing to make more fish for future years.

Anyway, I started across the river watching for debrie as I went. Most debrie including the big logs aren’t much of a problem as I’m going the same speed on the water as the logs, so I can maneuver around them, just like driving on a freeway, where the cars can maneuver around each other at high speed.island


I made it over  to the channel and moved up to the debrie stuck on the end of the island to see about crossing the back channel of the island to head up the south edge.

Resting in a pile of debrie

Here I am resting in the debrie stuck on the end of the island, checking out how to cross over to the right, where the current is much greater than where I am now.river


While sitting there, I noticed a pair of black birds hunting for food in the debrie.

Here’s a male one giving me the evil eye.blackbird


The female was getting a bug or a seed or something right in front of my boat as I watched.bbird


I repeated the same maneuver crossing this section and made it to the south side of the river. I pulled into this spot to rest for a bit. Lots of debrie piling up today, but a lot of it will continue down and into the ocean as the water level drops.upriver


Key to paddling up the river

The key to going up a moving river is to go on it’s edges where there isn’t much current and sometimes there’s a good back eddy in these spots too which can push me up the river with very little effort.

Stopped at Eagle’s Landing

I made it up to Eagle’s landing, where the current picked up some more and a lot of debrie started floating by, more than before. I sat and watched and decided this was far enough up the river today, about a half mile above the boat ramp.

My spot at eagle’s landing.eagleslanding


I watched a lot of logs and stuff going down stream, headed for the ocean while sitting at eagle’s landing.logs


Like I said, I decided to turn back here as there was a lot of logs coming down right now, so I turned into the current and let it take me down the side of the river. Most of the debrie was out in the middle so this was another good reason to stay on the edge, even going down the river.

State life guard checking me out?

I went down a ways and was sitting along the side watching when I noticed the state life guard pull up along the highway across from me. Oh, oh. Was I in Trouble?

I couldn’t quite see him from where I was, so I took a picture. I
think I see him standing under the tree on the right.lifeguard


He was doing what he’s supposed to do, checking out to make sure people were safe. So, I needed to show him I was not in any distress, so I tried taking a few pictures, but that didn’t work, he stayed.

Ok, I’ll show him I can cross over the river safely to the little channel at the end of Penny island, maybe that would do it?

So, I pushed out into the river, heading up first to check out to see where the debrie was. Once  I could see an opening in the debrie, I turned and headed down river at about a forty five letting the river take me into the stilled channel on the end of the island here.pennyisland


That did it, he started his truck and headed towards Jenner where I watched to make sure he wasn’t going to be at the boat ramp waiting for me. He drove on through town, so I guess I wasn’t doing anything wrong. One never knows if one is doing anything wrong these days. :O)

I sat around at the end of the island for about a half hour and then looked at crossing back over to the boat ramp.

I hit the back eddy to the boat ramp

I started across looking for debrie and was enjoying my paddle. I knew I’d miss the ramp, but I also knew there was a back eddy which flows back up to the boat ramp, so I didn’t care and sure enough, I missed the ramp, but caught the eddy back to the ramp, so I didn’t even have to paddle much in the back eddy to the ramp.

Checked out the boat ramp at Monte Rio

I pulled my boat out and drove back to Monte Rio and over to where the boat ramp usually is, but it was under water about thirty feet today.
This is a picture of the river from the parking lot looking across , just below the bridge which is just out of the picture to the left.monterio


I try to be safe

I go out in this area almost everyday, so I know the area fairly well, where the bad spots are and where the calm spots are, so it’s not a big thing for me as far as safe goes.

The main thing is not to fall into the water as it’s only a little over a half mile until the ocean, which I do not intend to go into, either in or out of a boat. The current is a bit faster during these conditions and there is some debrie in the water to watch out for which I have experience with. It’s not a place I’d recommend for inexperienced people to paddle, but for me, it’s just another way for me to experience the river and learn about how it functions.

Oh, I do wear my PFD, a personal floatation jacket at all times while on the water, which I’ve found from experience to be very helpful if I do fall in. In thirteen years, I’ve only fallen into the river once,……. so far.

It was an interesting day on the river paddling around and checking things out.

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