Lower Russian River Dams Out

The River mouth is open again.

I was a little slow getting going this morning, so I arrived at Jenner around  noon. I decided to drive down to the river mouth overlook on highway 1. I found that the river mouth was open again, but, just barely open, not open wide like it was before. The rough seas pushed sand up behind the jetty causing he mouth to close. However, they have taken out the lower Russian River damns, which caused it to open back up a bit, but not wide open like it was before.

This shot is taken from the highway 1 overlook. Note the river is doing a right turn from behind the jetty, instead of doing a straight out. This type of open causes the river mouth to be more restricted in how much and how fast it lets sea water in and water out. From my observations, this type of open really restricts how much sea stuff comes into the estuary, as compared to a straight out, wide open type open.



This shot is taken from the water, a little later in the day. It’s low tide, so the mouth is open even less than at high tide, such as when the picture from the highway was taken. Note the small outlet, just in front of the big rock on the right.



So, I got into the water, just after noon and headed across to the island and then up to the highway 1 bridge up river. Lots of birds around. The white pelicans are back, making their way south. There are a lot of these bovines around the hills of Jenner. They roam the hills just above town and make a lot of dinosaur type sounds. So, I call them bovinasorouses, not sure about the spelling of that one? And actually, that pelican is sorta dinosrousy too.Maybe there are still dino’s around us?


I paddled back down around the island and to the mouth, taking my time and enjoying the day. I was off the river around five pm.

Russian river dam construction and why does the river clear up at the same time?

For years now, I’ve noticed the river really gets clear around Oct. first. I originally thought this was likely because of the sun going lower in the sky at this time of year, thus the algae stopped growing for the year.

But, later I realized they take the lower river dams out at this time. Hummmmmm. There are two dams they drop. One at the Guerneville beach and the lowest one at Vacation beach crossing. It seems the flush of the water is somehow responsible for this clearing of the water, or maybe it’s the fact that the two still bodies of water behind the damns isn’t there to grow stuff, or what?

Does this fast release of water mess with nature?

But then something else popped into my head about this dam letting of all this water. Does it cause a false flush, that pushes the fish to the ocean before their time.Wouldn’t all this water cause the little guys that have to go out to the ocean to get there sooner than they should. Shouldn’t we let mother nature do the triggering of when fish come and go in the river?

But no rain storm at this time, so the creeks aren’t up yet to lay eggs in. Does the false flush trigger the salmon to come up the river before they should? If they come in too soon, the creeks will still be dry from no rain and some can’t get to their laying areas.

Maybe we should be dropping the water behind these dams slowly as to not make such a disturbance in the river?


Few people actually witness the construction of these summer damns. This is the Vacation Beach one. It’s also a summer road crossing, so that’s why all the dirt.It’s also interesting, that this dam is how far the tides effect the water height, right to this point at the higher tides.



This is the crew that puts the dams in and takes them out. They are taking this one down, removing one of the boards that backs up the water.



I got in close behind the dam for this shoot. They are lifting a board out of the dam to let the water drop. The guy on the left is over seventy, and says he is going to retire, but I still see him doing it. They just give him more younger guys to do the work.



Some times those boards try to get away, you just go after them. The green thing is a fish ladder.



The lower dams go in on June 16th, I think and have to be out by Oct. 1 to make it easier for the salmon to get up the river to their laying areas. There is another lower dam that isn’t taken out. It is the Sonoma County Water Agency’s blow up rubber dam, up a ways above Steelhead beach access park. This dam is supposed to have a better fish ladder and so is not taken down. It is up most of the year, except during real high water in the winter. It’s purpose is to back the water up in the river and also backs it up into some side channels that go to some filtering ponds that let the river water filter down into the river gravels below ground, so clean water can be pumped. Water from the big dams up river is released so it can be filtered and pumped for uses by the Sonoma County Water agency. So, not to get ahead of myself, this water from the big dams, like from Mendocino lake and Sonoma lake is transported down the river and filtered by river gravels then pumped at this rubber dam location to be used by people.

Just to clarify, the pumps do not pump the river water directly from the river. The river water seeps down into the gravels under the river. The pumps are set in these gravels on the sides of the river. They pump the water filtered by the gravels.

So, let’s do this one more time.Water from the big dams up the river, flows down the river to the rubber dam, where the water is fed down into the river gravels to be filtered by them and then big pumps in these gravels pump the water to the points of usage.

That’s the way I understand it to work.

I had another great day on the river.

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