Monday, June 9, 2014
The River Mild - Kayaking the Albion River
The Albion River reaches the sea at the eponymous little village of Albion, several miles south of Mendocino proper. Highway One crosses high above the river, overlooking a rocky, twisting channel that is the entrance to the harbor. Looking west, one sees all the rugged beauty that makes the coast famous. But the other direction possesses something special of its own.
On the north side of the bridge is a road that drives down to the river, with two separate campgrounds that both offer kayak launching (one is closer to the ocean, one further away, so it just depends on which way you want to paddle). Wherever you start, putting in and heading upriver quickly takes you around a few bends and far from the town and civilization, winding your way through steep walls of verdant green, past resting seals and frequent herons. It works best to ride a flood tide, the ocean pushing its way in along with you, before turning and letting the ebb and river current carry you back out.
We didn't have favorable tides and almost got stuck on the sandbars, but about three feet is all you need to make it up three miles where fallen trees block the path. The continued flood fought us on the way back, but it only slowed our pace a little, giving us more time to appreciate the action: a seagull chased an immature bald eagle carrying a fish; a lone cormorant struggled to take flight at our approach, shaking his wings to dry them before the launch; an osprey circled high above, letting the afternoon sunlight reveal targets in the pools of calm water below.
So the next time the winds howl and the waves crash, or you want to paddle in shorts and a tee shirt for a change, look inward. The Albion, the Navarro, Big River, and the Noyo all provide miles of interesting scenery and peaceful water. It truly is a paddler's paradise out here.