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 firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.