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Weekend shuttle bus now available between Santa Rosa, Steelhead and Sunset beaches

Sonoma County locals and weekend visitors who love summertime on the Russian River — but not so much the parking hassle that usually comes with it — can now travel between Santa Rosa and two popular county beaches aboard a new Regional Parks River Shuttle.

Delayed a year by the COVID-19 pandemic, the new shuttle option is a particular boon to folks who want to float downstream from Steelhead Beach to Sunset Beach, about three miles away.

No need to leave a vehicle at both parks any longer. Just take the bus.

The shuttle runs at 30-minute intervals between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, beginning this Saturday and ending Labor Day weekend.

Round-trip tickets are $5 and can be ordered online at russianrivershuttle.mytrakk.com/.

The route runs from Tom Schopflin Fields, 4351 Old Redwood Highway, down River Road to the Forestville beaches, an area often jammed with vehicles on especially warm weekends, as parking lots fill and beach-goers seek out parking spaces wherever they can.

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Lynda Hopkins said she was excited to see the program, in development for a couple of years, finally roll out.

“The river shuttle provides a key solution to a specific challenge: The Russian River has become so popular that we now have more visitors to the lower river beaches than we have available parking,” said Hopkins, whose 5th District encompasses the west county. “I hope both local and out-of-area travelers will take advantage of this service. It’s an affordable, convenient and climate-smart choice for visiting the river.”

Passengers can carry deflated flotation devices on the shuttle and pump them up at a free inflation station at Steelhead Beach.

With river flows at a low level due to drought, floaters should allow more than 4 hours to travel the distance downstream to Sunset Beach, park representatives said.

The last shuttle leaves Steelhead Beach at 5:45 p.m. and Sunset at 6 p.m. each day. Visitors should start their trip downstream no later than 1 p.m. to finish in time to make the last bus.

More information is available at parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov/Visit/Russian-River-Shuttle/.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

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