For all the fun and exhilaration of setting out under your own power to drift or paddle down the Russian River, experts urge visitors to give it some thought before they set out.

The best way to ensure the voyage remains safe and pleasant is to set aside a few moments ahead of time for some serious planning.

If you’re going without the benefit of a guide, consider water and weather conditions and, most importantly, understand how long it will take you to get from Point A to Point B.

KNOW YOUR WATERCRAFT

Trying a kayak for the first time with an 8-mile trip? Maybe not, experts say.

You might be worn out halfway down the river. Think that inner tube can get you five miles downstream in an afternoon? Think again.

“That doesn’t work,” Sonoma County Regional Parks Program Manager David Robinson said.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT ROUTE

If you’re dependent on the water to carry you down, make sure you have an appropriately short distance to travel on the lazy current that prevails this time of year.

You might want to kick around on flat water near Monte Rio Community Beach or Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville, where there’s a seasonal dam.

Both sites are conducive to tubing upstream and downstream with relative ease, so you don’t need a shuttle, said Scott Heemstra, manager at King’s Sport & Tackle in Guerneville.

You can do the same thing in Jenner, putting in at the mouth of the river, paddling upstream a bit and then heading back down to the end.

Or you can launch at a county beach in Forestville like Steelhead or Mom’s, and head to Sunset Beach, said Larry Laba, owner of SOAR Inflatables and Russian River Adventures.

Another short run that might be good for someone trying out a kayak or paddleboard is from Del Rio Woods to Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach, about 2.3 miles of beautiful scenery, Robinson said.

CAN YOU CARRY IT?

Laba suggests also taking into account how far you might have to carry an awkward vessel when choosing put-in and take-out points.

Steelhead Beach offers an easy launch, for instance. At Sunset, you may be lugging a kayak through a winding, wooded trail.

PLAN YOUR EXIT

Choose a final destination that is physically accessible and open to the public.

Launch at Cloverdale River Park or Alexander Valley Campground, for instance, and you’ll travel about 13 miles before an exit point comes up.

START EARLY, AND GIVE YOURSELF AMPLE TIME

Leave in the morning, when weather conditions tend to be better, Robinson said. “A lot of people will start out at noon, 1 o’clock, and you never know.

“That wind can pick up really fast, and the fog can come in.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

WHERE TO FIND SHELTERS

Shelters have been set up for people and their pets at the following locations:

— Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building is accepting evacuees and small pets.

— Finley Center in Santa Rosa is accepting evacuees and small pets, but may be full at this time.

— The Sonoma County Fairgrounds is accepting people and pets.

— Petaluma VFW Post 1929 (pets allowed), 1094 Petaluma Blvd. South, Petaluma

Large animals are being accepted at the following:

— Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road

— Sonoma Valley High School FFA, 20000 Broadway, Sonoma

— Sonoma Ukiah Fairgrounds, 1055 N. State St., Ukiah

In all cases, people must remain with their pets.

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The Sonoma Humane Society’s shelters in Santa Rosa and Healdsburg have some resources available for pet owners who have been displaced by the fires: crates, food and pet supplies. They are open to take in strays and injured animals. They are not able to board animals at this time. Sheltering space must be reserved for animals displaced by the fire.

LOST, FOUND AND INJURED ANIMALS

Sonoma County Animal Services is open and onsite 24/7 until further notice at 1247 Century Court, (off of Airport Boulevard) in Santa Rosa, accepting lost/found animals. Large animals/livestock should go to Sonoma County Fairgrounds. Found animals are being posted on their Facebook page. Additionally, they are offering no-cost veterinary services for medical treatment for animals affected by the fires.

A mobile unit is also onsite at the evacuation center located at Veterans Hall in Santa Rosa.

Animal services is greatly in need of the following donations:

Water bowls (any size), disposable lasagna pans (for cat/kitten litter), animal food, including: sweet mix for horses or goats, egg layer for chickens, pig feed, dog and cat food (wet or dry — any brand) and grass hay for all, grain buckets, baby/wet wipes. Donations can be dropped off at 1247 Century Court (off of Airport Boulevard) in Santa Rosa.

For more information about available services and donations call 707-565-4406.