Russian River below Asti
For many Californians, the Russian River below Cloverdale constitutes their introduction to canoeing, and often their only river running experience. W.C. “Bob” Trowbridge, who was instrumental in establishing Californians' right to river access, started a canoe business on this stretch. Recently he sold his company to Rivers Edge Kayak and Canoe (click here for their website). They rent canoes and perform shuttles out of Healdsburg and Alexander Valley. Operations don't begin until April or May, so if you visit when the river is running high in early spring, you might have to do your own shuttle.
Between Asti and Alexander Valley road, the Russian flows thru a pleasant open valley dotted with vineyards, over wide gravel bars and in willow-lined channels. There is little shade, and the river is seldom very deep, so this trip is best on a sunny day in early spring, when you welcome the constant warmth of the sun, and when recent rains have quickened the flow. The river turns brown after a storm, then gradually turns green over a period of several days, depending on the intensity of previous rain. The best tradeoff of adequate flow and green water is somewhere between 500 and 1500 cfs at Hopland (HOP).
Hazard: When boating and especially when swimming, stay away from trees and branches hanging down in the water. These strainers can be lethal: the water goes thru them, but you do not. The force of current can trap you underwater.
Camping is possible at the KOA Resort on River Road south of Cloverdale, but since Healdsburg is less than two hours from San Francisco, most people drive up just for one day. Alexander Valley Campground at take-out opens for camping in April or May.
To reach take-out, go north from Healdsburg on 101, and exit at Alexander Valley Rd. Follow Alexander Valley Rd. east to the river, and turn left into a private campground just before the bridge. There is a $5 parking fee (1997) for each vehicle.
To reach put-in, return to 101 and proceed north to the Cloverdale exit. Cross the river and drive south again to River Road, marked with KOA campground signs. During the rainy season, the bridge from this side to River Rd. is removed, so it might be possible to park at the dead end. During the summer, parking is difficult, so it is best to let a local outfitter arrange the shuttle.
Map of Rivers