Lower Russian River Dams Are In

Wednesday, June 19, 2013, Jenner, CA.

Went down to Jenner to Kayak

When I arrived at Jenner today, I was surprised the water level wasn’t higher as the mouth of the river is closed and normally, the water level rises about six inches a day from the fresh water coming down the river.

But, it was the same level it was a few days ago, so what gives? Sometimes it helps to know what is going on up the river.

The lower river summer dams go in on June 16th and get taken out on October 1st. The reason the water level hadn’t risen with the mouth of the river closed is the areas behind these dams are filling up with water, as they were just installed on June 16th. Once they are full, the water will spill over the dams. Most of the dams do not restrict the water flow in the river. The water flows in the top end and flows over the dam and continues down the river.

Let’s list the lower river dams

I’ll start with the dam nearest the ocean. This dam is a natural one. When the river is closed by sand blowing in from the ocean it can form a sand dam at the river’s mouth. This dam comes and goes with the weather mostly and does back up the water, all the way to the next dam at Vacation beach. When the mouth is closed it forms a lake between the ocean and the Vacation Beach dam.

When the water level hits seven feet at the markers at the Jenner visitor’s center, the Sonoma County Water Agency is required by law to make a channel in the sand bar and let some water out. They do this with a big excavator. The biologists would like this dam to be closed for a longer period in the summer to help improve the fish population. When the sand closes the river’s mouth, some water still flows out to the ocean though the sand. It can also flow back in though the sand if the ocean is at high tide and is higher than the river water.

The next dam is at Vacation Beach,  between Guerneville and Monte Rio. It is both a summer bridge and a dam. This dam backs the water up the to next dam at Guerneville, at Johnson’s Beach.  High tides can affect the river up to this dam. A metal bridge and some gravel is put in each summer so cars can get to the other side of the river easier.

The Guerneville dam is just a dam, no bridge. It backs the water up almost to the Korbel river crossing.

The Korbel crossing is not a dam, but a summer bridge that is now made up of metal bridge spans that are installed in the spring and taken out in the fall. This is also called the Odd Fellows crossing.

The next dam is  a big rubber dam that can be blown up to rise it or lower it. It is a Sonoma County Water Agency dam that backs the water up to make it go into side channels that go to holding ponds where the water seeps back down into the gravels for filtering. Big pumps pump water from the deep gravels for human usage.

The next dam is at Healdsburg.

As far as I know, that’s it for lower river dams.

As long as we are on this subject, there are two upper dams that feed the river too.

One is at Lake Mendocino, near Ukiah and the other is at Lake Sonoma on Dry creek.

Ok, I did go kayaking too

It was real windy when I arrived at Jenner today. No one else on the water. I put my boat in the water, carefully, because of all the waves from the wind. I paddled across the river to Penny Island and headed up the south side and headed for Paddy’s rock, taking my time, trying to find places to stop along the side which were out of the wind. Not too successful doing this today, as the wind was strong.

I arrived at Paddy’s Rock but didn’t stay very long as it’s out in the wind. So, I headed back to the little end channel on Penny Island to get out of the wind.

I sat around there for awhile as it’s one of the least windy places, before I decided to go ashore on the island and look for some berries to eat and take a little walk.

This is the little channel at the east end of the island that is usually out of the wind, as you can see.



While looking for berries to eat, I went by the old house on the island, which you can see hat is left of it below. I found plenty of berries to eat.



I was on the island for an hour or so, hopping the wind would die. When I popped back out where my boat was, the wind was still up and blowing even harder.

Below is where I put ashore on the east end of Penny Island.

There are some geese sitting on the far grassy area.



These are the geese sitting it out in the grass. Note the choppy, windy river water. Not too much wild life out and about when it’s real windy like this.



I thought I might make it down to the river’s mouth, but when I went around to the north side of the island to check out if it was possible in the wind, I decided it was just too strong to work that hard trying to paddle down there.

Below, I’m on the north side of the island checking out the wind and waves, thinking of heading down to the mouth. I came to my senses, see all those white caps on the river?



I crossed back over the river to the north shore and took my boat out of the water for the day.

Had a nice day.

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