Teens kayak 21 miles in 3 days on the Russian River during LandPaths trek

They saw a large black cow cross the Russian River, an osprey catch a fish, western pond turtles retreat in their shells and a doe swim with her fawns.

Sixteen adventurous youths explored their natural surroundings not far from home when they kayaked 21 miles in three days on the river last week during LandPaths' third Teen River Trek.

“You're really kind of going on this trek together. You're feeling the water and getting to know the water. It changes your perception of the river because you're kind of part of it,” said Dani Elins, LandPaths volunteer field guide.

The program is designed to help young people forge new connections with nature while teaching them how to navigate the river on a kayak.

Some of the kids - ages 12 to 15 - had never touched a kayak before the trek. They day before they left, the kids were taught safety and paddling skills. They also toured the Sonoma County Water Agency to learn about drinking water.

They paddled about 7 miles a day, beginning at the Geyserville Bridge on July 17. They slept at the Alexander Valley campground the first night and at Front Porch Farm the next night.

Their food and camping supplies were brought to them as they stopped along the river. They jumped off rocks and rope swings, ate spaghetti dinners, played guitar in the shade, did yoga at sunset, ate s'mores and relaxed under the stars.

It was a chance for the teens to unplug. As beautiful as the scenery was, they didn't post about it on Snapchat or Instagram, since parents were told smartphones could get wet on the kayaks.

“It always feels a bit transformative to be able to disengage from our day-to-day world and be part of this journey,” Elins said.

They ended the trek at Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach on July 19.

“For so many of them, it's kind of their first adventure, and they leave with a feeling of accomplishment,” said Bree Arthur, LandPaths education lead.

You can reach Staff Writer Susan Minichiello at 707-521-5216 or On Twitter @susanmini.

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