It was a hot summer day and I had promised my youngest son I would take him and his best friend, one of my best friend’s daughters, canoeing on the Russian River. We left early and drove up to Guerneville, a small town along the river in Sonoma County. I wasn’t sure what two almost six year olds would make of the adventure, but I was excited. I have fond memories of canoeing on the East Coast from my childhood and did it a few times on the Russian River in the early nineties. Visions of swimming and frolicking in the river, picnicking on a sandbar and most of all enjoying the day with my husband and the two kidlets got me revved for the escapade. We did some research and found a company named Burke’s Canoe Trips that does half day adventures. This sounded great, but not with the wee ones; maybe with my ten year old and a buddy though.  We found Johnson’s Beach, a really quaint spot, where you could rent canoes by the hour; perfect for our questionable passengers. When we arrived we found a sweet little beach spot which reminded me of spots in NY I visited as a kid in the 70’s; really low tech, really friendly and family run. It wasn’t fancy but I liked it like that. You could rent an umbrella and a buff dude would come over and pound it into the sand for you. The snack bar served soft serve for a dollar and you could rent inner tubes to float along if you didn’t want to paddle. The changing room was a wooden structure with hand-made curtains; loved it! We set off about two o’clock figuring we’d play it by ear, an hour seemed short but we weren’t sure. My husband wanted me in the back, I think so I could be a spaz and he could act frustrated; but I was game. Sure enough, I had trouble keeping us on course and the two kids were yelling like coxman. We stopped a few times to swim and hang on the shore, passing many other folks out for a paddle. It’s not a private affair, but I assume if you head further down the river, the riff raff is weeded out. We passed a family who had capsized and the canoe was full of water, but the river was so low, one could stand at most points. It was fun to see all the homes with docks and tables and setups along the banks. One funny moment was when my son’s friend Tess, who is a napper, fell asleep leaning on the bar in the center of the canoe. We were gone about 2 ½ hours and it cost $20. We returned the canoe, got ice cream, stopped at In and Out for a burger and fries and then headed home. For the price of a ½ tank of gas and about $40, we had a full day adventure!

Filed Under Budget Travel, California, Canoe/Kayak, Day Trips, Family Travel, Feature, Northern California


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