Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mendocino kayaking: 3 rivers, no wading, go now

Paddling through a stream of sunlight on the Albion River

“Every day on the water is a good day,” says Cap’n Bob, a paddling pal who’s been kayaking for, oh, a few eons. But there are moments when it gets even better, when paddle strokes stir up a mixture of water, sun, wind, flora and fauna that becomes magical. So it was on a May weekend kayak trip to Mendocino. (And not a puff of magic smoke, wiseguys.)

Rhododendrons hang over the Big River
This stretch of the North Coast is known for a rugged shoreline and sometimes dangerous sea conditions. Our tour focused on a more relaxed paddle of three rivers – the Albion, Big and Noyo – that feed the mighty Pacific or sip its brine, depending on the tide. We rode the flows as far upstream as possible, until they reversed and pulled us back toward the sea. With tide and time in sync, we never had to get out and walk our boats – except to shore for picnics, of course. Mendocino river kayak

The three rivers are less than an hour’s drive from each other, but have distinctly different personalities – the Albion by turns quirky and magnificent, the Big River lumbering and laid-back, and the Noyo a bit gritty, befitting its blue-collar harbor. If forced to choose only one, my pick would be the Albion. But all had the makings for a day paddle both pleasurable and unique.

Floating homes with unusual owners -- and stories to match -- on the Albion River
More details on this tour are just around the next bend at NorCal Yak, but you know how long that can take on the water. So don’t wait. If you can make arrangements to stay in the Mendocino or Fort Bragg area this month for a couple of days – before summer fog and heavy tourist traffic roll in – just do it.

Albion and Big River launch points are well-marked and just off Highway 1. Other than good weather, a kayak and appropriate gear, all you need is a tide chart. Now to paddle this blog around that next bend…

© Glenn Brank 2012